Opinion: Joe goes to Comic Con

SDN Editor

For our loyal readers, I know many have been following the story of 15-year-old Joe Cane, who sells lemonade at a dusty and fairly-remote crossroads in Oktibbeha County across from Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.  

His story, which first appeared in the Starkville Daily News a couple weeks ago, received widespread attention and was even picked up by the Associated Press, all because this young man decided to work for what he wanted - a trip to Mississippi Comic Con in Jackson.

With his white Beats headphones around his neck and and his go-getter attitude braving the elements during the summer months, this entrepreneur embodies the American dream on every day but Sunday. And all this at such a young age.

On Tuesday, I paid Joe a visit at his makeshift lemonade stand, which is two wooden TV trays, a red Igloo cooler full of ice and a poster-board sign advertising his lemonade for 50 cents a cup. Even as I write this column I have a Red solo cup sweating without a coaster on my office desk.

Taking a break from holding his sign and waving at motorists, Joe expressed his gratitude to Mississippi Comic Con for giving him VIP access and told about his trip over the past weekend.

Joe and his friends made the two-hour drive to Jackson on Friday and stayed through the weekend, with Joe using the money he saved from the lemonade stand to help pay for a hotel.

During the convention, Joe sent photos of his cosplay outfit - a black-cloaked reaper with a sword and scythe.

“It wasn’t anything special,” Joe laughed about his attire at the event.

He didn’t come home empty-handed, either. While he did treat himself to a new wallet and some other small trinkets, he said he also purchased gifts for friends and family.

“I was thankful for everybody’s support and I just like getting gifts for people if it makes them happy,” he commented.

His favorite part of the tournament came in the form of gaming tournaments, namely “Tekken 7.”

“I entered all of them and lost all of them,” Joe said of the video game tournament, shaking his head. “Whether I win or lose I always have fun.”

Joe’s comic book convention schedule is booked up through August, too, due to event organizers who reached out with passes after reading his story. He said he plans to attend two events in August - the Golden Triangle Comic Con in Columbus and Nerd-Vana in Oxford.

If you ask any of the organizers, they will tell you it didn’t take much for them to realize the potential in someone like Joe, whose unwavering spirit and tireless devotion to his craft, make him a valuable member of any community.

For this newspaper editor, if I had a team of Joe Canes, we would win Pulitzer Prizes regularly and business leaders think so, too.

On Monday I had the opportunity to hear Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann present data reflecting the wants and needs of businesses in Mississippi using consumer and census data. Of the 5,3000 businesses who responded, roughly 35 percent of small and large firms said work ethic was the most important factor for an educated workforce.

People like Joe Cane reflect true work ethic and just what the people are made of around here, so for anyone knocking the younger generation, there is certainly hope.

I think it is crucial that we as a community take note of industrious youth like Joe Cane. Even Secretary Hosemann said we should recognize and reward hard work for young people and not reserve the praise for those who excel in sports.

For Lemonade Day, coming up on Aug. 18, I hope those in our community will show support to youth who want to work for what they want. And I hope Joe is included in this effort and can be used as a mentor to younger entrepreneurs.

His experience, attitude and story can be inspirational to people of all ages, so I do hope his knowledge of running a simple business can be imparted in some way to others.

This concept came full circle to me standing with Joe as the blistering sun beat down. A lightning strike from a distant thunderstorm split our conversation and we both looked to the horizon.

I told him he’d better call it a day before a storm kicked up, but he was undeterred and it was obvious I was short-selling his experience in the field.

When I began my walk back across the dusty gravel road to my car and looked back at Joe, I wagged a finger and told him not to get struck by lightning.

He hollered back at me and all I could do was nod.

“I’ve been doing this for awhile!”

Ryan Phillips is the executive editor of the Starkville Daily News and the Daily Times Leader. The views expressed in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the newspaper or its staff.