Toby Keith’s daughter says late country music legend told her never apologize for being patriotic
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Toby Keith’s daughter says late country music legend told her never apologize for being patriotic

Toby Keith’s legacy is still leaving a mark on family, friends and fans months after his death from stomach cancer in February.

On Saturday, during the University of Oklahoma’s commencement ceremony, Keith’s daughter, Krystal Keith, accepted an honorary degree on his behalf.

“When he learned last fall that he was being inducted to Sooner Nation on this high of a level, he was so excited, and he was so proud,” Krystal said during her speech while accepting the degree.

She continued, “I actually made a joke about how many hours I spent here getting my bachelor’s degree, and he joked that he didn’t have to work that hard to get his. But we all know he earned it and spent many more hours dedicating his life to earning it this way. He loved his family (he loved all of us), God, our country, and Sooner Nation.”

Krystal went on to describe Keith’s love and dedication to the college, beginning as a young teen.

“His passion started far back before he was 12 and 13. He sold Cokes at the stadium just to be able to see the OU games. He joked that he would sell them for half the game, and then he would go sit and watch the game and sometimes got in trouble for not finishing his job.”

Keith was so dedicated to the Sooner team that “He broke his ankle playing a celebrity OU Alumni game in the ’90s. For as long as I can remember, he took our family to bowl games and was on every sideline or courtside of every OU event that he possibly could, regardless of sport or gender. He wanted to be at all of them. He supported them wholeheartedly. He simply bled Crimson and Cream.”

The work ethic continued into his music career.

“Throughout his life and career, he made sure to work hard to have the best, to be the best. He often said, ‘They may write better than me, they may sing better than me, and they may look better than me, but they will NEVER outwork me,’” Krystal recalled. “And that made all the difference. He was a larger-than-life legend, he was an icon, he did things his own way, his songs inspired nearly everyone in country music and beyond.”

Krystal also highlighted her father’s patriotism, something he proudly encouraged in his children, saying, “He always said, ‘Never apologize for being patriotic,’ and practiced what he preached through his work with the USO [United Service Organizations].”

Recounting some of his 11 tours, she recalled, “He was going into the most dangerous zones, where guys that never got those entertainers to come to them, were housed and were sitting, and he would go and boost their morale. And that’s who he wanted to go see. We called him Captain America. And that’s something he earned.”

Krystal concluded her speech, saying, “My dad taught me everything: singing, writing songs and … most of what I know about life. And I hope the graduates that are here today can learn from him, too. He fought hard to live his dream.”

“He had faith and believed in himself. He never gave up the fight, even when the odds were against him. He would want me to tell you to never give up on yourself. As you start your next journey in life, know that you have strong roots here at the University of Oklahoma. Work hard and be the captain of your own ship. Believe in yourself and live your dream.”

“He fought his fight with grace and courage,” it continued. “Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”

Following his death, an outpouring of love from the country music community and beyond began.

In March, it was announced that Keith had been selected for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, just days before he died.

As Sarah Trahern, the chief executive of the Country Music Association, noted in the livestream event announcing his induction, “As we know now, we woke up that morning to the heartbreaking news that our friend, Toby Keith, lost his long battle with stomach cancer. What’s bittersweet is that just a few hours later, our team received word … that he’d been elected in the modern era category.”

She continued, “My heart sank knowing we missed the chance to inform Toby while he was still with us, but I have no doubt that he is smiling down on us, knowing that he will always be ‘as good as he once was.’”

Trahern also explained that the rules typically state that someone can’t be inducted in the year in which they die, but Keith was selected before he died, though it was just days prior.

Voting closed on Feb. 2, and the final numbers were revealed to the Country Music Association on Feb. 6, the same day Keith’s family announced his death.

The induction ceremony will be held in October at the CMA Theater in Nashville, Tennessee, when Keith will join John Anderson and James Burton, his fellow inductees this year, and other hallowed icons like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Ray Charles.

“He always said, ‘Never apologize for being patriotic,’ and practiced what he preached through his work with the USO.”


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