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Words for 2024

At the start of each year, we pick a word to live by. We asked others to give us their word for 2024. They all make persuasive cases.

  • By Matt Walsh
  • | 5:00 a.m. December 28, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Opinion
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For the past dozen years, we have had a tradition of publishing the word — one word to live by, to guide our direction and actions in the new year, to inspire us year-round, to serve as a guidepost for what we do and want to accomplish in the new year.

This year, we thought it beneficial to you, our readers, if we broadened this tradition and tapped the wisdom and insights of others.

As you read the words of these accomplished, thoughtful people, perhaps you will be inspired to adopt one or more of their words to live by in 2024.

My word for 2024: Legacy

Matt Walsh
Founding Editor and CEO, Business Observer

As we all see, watch and read every day with growing despair, disgust and frustration at the destruction of the United States — admit it, we are crumbling — an appropriate question for every adult in America is this: 

Is this what you want your legacy to be?

Is this what we want our children and grandchildren to inherit — a socially and culturally ravaged, decadent, lawless, hedonistic, God-less, tyrannical, bankrupt, immoral society? That’s the path we’re on. 

None of us wants that. We must reverse this disastrous course.


Oh, that would take a book of Bible-like proportions.

But it starts with each one of us in our daily actions. First, toward our families. Then, toward others. 

And it starts at the start: The 10 Commandments.

“Teacher,” said one of the Pharisees to Jesus, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. 

“The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In a statement written for Sunday school children in the summer of 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant, a practicing Methodist, wrote: “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and PRACTICE THEM IN YOUR LIVES. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization.”

This belief and Jesus’ Top Two Commandments are seemingly disappearing from the minds and actions of Americans, snuffed out and  persecuted under the weight of tyrannical secularism. 

Reversing this course and re-igniting what previously made us the world’s beacon of liberty will be a monumental journey. It will be one of hard labor; of elder generations teaching, showing and inculcating the next generations in the raison d’etre of our nation’s founding principles; in the Constitution; in economic liberty versus the state; in proper, respectful social etiquette; in self-responsibility versus victimhood; and that the American way is to reach for the stars.

In his Shining City address to the nation on Jan. 12, 1989, Reagan said: 

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise, and that freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

“We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important … more attention to American history and a greater emphasis of civic ritual. 

“And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins …”

Make 2024 a commitment to leaving a better legacy.


Jennifer Compton
Managing Partner, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, Sarasota

We all need to listen more.  

To listen is to demonstrate respect for each other and for perspectives other than our own.  

Listening is not the act of letting someone else speak, which alone has value, but instead is being so fully committed to hearing another person’s perspective that we ourselves might be changed for having listened.  

When we listen we learn, we connect, we build trust. We may even discover that our own thoughts and judgments are wrong.  

To listen does not mean we have to agree, but instead that we are deeply engaged in what others are saying so that we come to understand and empathize with other perspectives — even if we disagree.  

Our country, our society, our world — all would benefit from listening more and speaking less, from learning more and lecturing less, from celebrating diverse opinion more and adhering to single-mindedness less.  

When we listen, we become more tolerant, more educated, more compassionate. When we listen, we gain power, bridge gaps in understanding, break down barriers and experience shared humanity.  

Those who listen know that true learning occurs when we listen. As Jimi Hendrix said: Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

Let’s gain wisdom. Are you ready to listen? 


John Couris
CEO, Florida Health Sciences/Tampa General Hospital, Tampa

My word for 2024 is Transformational. 

This adjective goes beyond mere change; it encapsulates the essence of profound evolution, both personal and societal.

At its core, Transformational embodies the idea of radical metamorphosis. 

As individuals, we often seek transformational experiences to break free from the constraints of routine and embrace a more authentic version of ourselves. Whether it’s a career change or a commitment to self-improvement, the journey toward becoming our best selves is inherently transformational.

Transformational also holds immense weight when applied to organizations or societal structures. Leaders, like me, aspire to lead transformational initiatives that transcend the status quo, fostering innovation and progress. My team and I are working toward transformational growth, aiming not just for incremental improvements but revolutionary shifts that have the potential to redefine our industry.

Transformational carries a connotation of positive impact. 

Transformational changes are not merely disruptive; they aim to elevate, inspire and create lasting benefits. 

It is important to recognize, however, that with transformational change comes inherent challenges. Change, even when positive, can be uncomfortable, demanding resilience and adaptability and requiring a delicate balance between embracing the new and preserving the essence of what makes us who we are.

Transformational isn’t just a descriptor; it’s a call to action, beckoning us to engage with the world in a way that leaves a lasting, positive imprint. As we look ahead to the new year, what is more exciting than that?


Teri Hansen
Founder, President and Chief Creative Officer, Priority Marketing, Fort Myers

As we look ahead to a new year, one word stands out profoundly in my mind: wisdom.  

Wisdom means more than having knowledge; it’s a thoughtful application of insight, good judgment and experience. Wisdom comes from above, and when we ask, God gives. I believe this is the year to ask for it. 

As a business owner, I’ve learned that with wisdom comes everything else — adaptability, foresight and the ability to navigate through uncertain times. In times of ambiguity, wisdom isn’t just valuable; it becomes indispensable. 

For any entrepreneur or business leader, we must also harness the shared wisdom of trusted advisers and mentors. Seeking counsel isn’t a sign of weakness but a testament to the idea that wisdom is a collective effort. 

This year, seek good counsel from a multitude of advisers and welcome those who offer diverse insights, perspectives and experiences. 

As we move forward into 2024, wisdom should remain our guiding compass. As a business community, we must equip ourselves to face whatever opportunities or challenges the year may bring. 


Rhea Law
President, University of South Florida, Tampa

Since our founding in 1956, one word has helped define the University of South Florida: Bold. 

We challenge our students and faculty to think boldly about what’s possible, where to push boundaries and how to forge new paths. 

USF researchers act boldly to solve grand challenges, invent new technologies and create a healthier future.  

Not only do we prepare students for jobs in high-demand fields and fill the talent pipeline for employers, but we are also bold in ensuring our graduates have the skills to succeed in careers that don’t yet exist. 

We have a bold vision for transforming the future of our university with a new stadium — the largest project ever. 

USF is reaching milestones quicker than many thought possible, including becoming a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities in 2023. The invitation to join this group of 71 of the nation’s top universities elevates our entire region. USF is among the youngest AAU institutions, reflecting our fast — and bold — rise.

We boldly enter the new year poised to provide even greater benefits to our students, including experiential learning opportunities; to our communities through enhanced outreach; and to society through innovative research partnerships.

Being bold is core to our DNA, and that will continue to define us in 2024.


Pat Neal
CEO, Neal Communities, Sarasota

Gratitude means “the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

We should remember our families, our health, our faith and all those things for which to be grateful. 

Most important of all, we Americans have much for which to be grateful. We live in a free country, a melting pot of different people with one culture which we call “Being an American.” 

This may be under attack nowadays, but our nation is still the Shining City on the Hill. 

Gratitude is the most helpful to the person who “shares the gratitude.” That is, gratitude is an attitude, an attitude that helps the giver as well as the recipient. 

Having a grateful heart or living a grateful life sets the tone, tenor, and attitude of the person who has the capacity to see his or her life as a good thing. 

Gratitude is a benefit to those who receive it, too. 

The kindness, depending on the sincerity and depth, is always a good thing for the person on the receiving end. It helps establish a kinder culture, a better community atmosphere and a more successful civil society.


Rick Scott
U.S. Senator

During the Joe Biden presidency, our country has completely fallen apart.

Crime is rampant and goes unpunished. Our border is wide open.

Our debt is $33 trillion and climbing. Inflation is growing higher than our wages.

There is a land war in Europe.

We don’t make things in America anymore, we buy them from our enemies in Communist China. 

We pulled out of Afghanistan like a bunch of cowards.

We don’t know what a woman is, and we think men can have babies.

The government pays people not to work and says no one has to pay his or her loans back. 

One of our greatest allies, Israel, is fighting for its survival, and the Washington Democrat politicians play politics with aid to help to push for more reckless spending. 

We must Rescue America. We must return our country to a position of strength. That is the Word to live by in 2024: Rescue. Rescue America.


Deanna Wallin
Founder/CEO, Naples Soap Co., Naples

This is a word I have used repeatedly since Hurricane Ian. It represents determination and strength in the face of adversity or hardship. 

Myself and our entire community has had to demonstrate significant tenacity, not just in the past year but in the past three years, more than ever. 

Tenacity gives us the strength to persevere even through the most difficult times. 

It is an anchor quality of being tenacious that pushes me to drive myself and move forward goals regardless of obstacles. 

Tenacity is an embedded trait in a person, and we, as humans, are often much stronger than we know.  


Charles E. Williams
12th Circuit Court Judge, Sarasota

With all due respect to singer Aretha Franklin (and also a play on her words), the Word for 2024 should be Respect.

Respect is more than a catch phrase or a lyric. It is a word that must be embraced more than ever.

Let’s start the year showing basic respect for each other, and in that context having respect for who we are and, more importantly, having respect for who we aren’t. 

We must show respect to those who do not act or think like we do, even though we may disagree vigorously with their point of view.

We do not need to, nor should we ever, show respect for evil acts or thoughts. But we should understand that some people may not see things the way we do, nor should they have to.

Disagreement and debate are welcome, healthy and basic elements of our society, but in acknowledging that, respect for differences in opinion is the other side of that coin.

As a member of the legal profession, I respect the rule of law and the role of the courts in shaping our country. We must respect those opinions and rulings, even those we may disagree with, the same way we respect the Constitution of the United States for being the sword and shield it represents in protecting our basic rights, because the rulings from the courts and the rights we all cherish all come from the same document.

So, Respect — respect for others, for our institutions, respect of our differences and of our similarities — is my Word for 2024.


Michael Wynn
President, Sunshine Ace Hardware, Fort Myers

As we reflect on the recent history of Florida’s Gulf Coast, a single Word resounds loudly in my mind for 2024: Resilience. 

This word not only defines our past but also stands as the beacon illuminating our future. 

Time and again, our region has demonstrated remarkable Resilience in the face of adversity and uncertainty. We have faced a multitude of challenges:

  • Ground zero for the great recession
  • Blue-green algae/red tide
  • The BP Oil spill
  • Two major hurricanes
  • Skyrocketing property insurance costs, unaffordable housing.
  • Global pandemic

Uncertainty and volatility will remain prevalent themes in the years to come. However, our coast will continue to personify Resilience and thrive in the face of any challenges. 

Despite the turbulence of the past, we persist as one of the country’s fastest-growing regions. Our quality of life consistently ranks among the nation’s best.

This Resilience is a direct result of our culture of collaboration and mutual support, which shines radiantly during difficult times. 

As we look toward the new year, we do so proudly, knowing our Resilience isn’t merely about overcoming adversity; it is our competitive advantage, sustaining our position as one of the most desirable places to live, work and play.


Dick Vitale
Sports Commentator, Lakewood Ranch

I strongly believe to be successful in the game that we all play — the Game of Life — one needs to approach everything with a sense of PASSION! 

You can never be successful in anything in life without enthusiasm, energy, dedication and a passion to achieve. 

I hope everyone in 2024 goes after the things that are important in life with devotion and a sense of passion to help others and make this world a better place for all. 

I have been very fortunate and try to spread my passion to others to help and bring joy.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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