The businessman has spoken in front of crowds of 20,000 people. He’s met with heads of state in Brunei, Singapore and Thailand.
“I have not been in any environment where I have ever felt nervous,” he said.
But returning here to the YMCA was a different story. He credits the facility with teaching him character, values and Christianity.
“My stomach has been knotted up since Monday about coming home,” he said to the HUDDLE crowd. “I am so humbled to be in your presence.”
He said as he walked the steps up to the YMCA’s doors, he was trembling. He was immediately reminded of the kind woman at the front desk, who welcomed him, a 6-year-old black boy when all but a few Y members were white, into the facility and showed him around. The boy whose only dream was to wear a white shirt and tie and make enough money to take care of his mother.
“I got really emotional walking into the building because this is where it all started,” he said. “How does a poor boy from Kokomo do the kinds of stuff that I’ve done?”
Kokomo YMCA Executive Director Dave Dubois said Knowling exemplifies the values of the YMCA.
“The extraordinary success he’s had and the credit that he gives this Y is very cool to me,” Dubois said. “Bob also represents the work the Y does so incredibly well. Bob had a platform in the book to say what this Y has meant to him. And to me, that’s extraordinary.”
Since his early involvement with the YMCA, Knowling has been very involved in leadership for the YMCA worldwide, and has said he will help the Kokomo YMCA fund the construction of its new facility.
“Usually you think of a business big-wig and you think of a guy that’s hard-driving and pushy, and he is so humble and gentle and crediting God for all of his success,” said Dick Sanburn, HUDDLE board member. “You just don’t see that very much.”