“A boat is safe in the harbor. But this is not the purpose of a boat” – Paulo Coelho
(This post is gonna be a really long one, so sit down and get comfortable.) People ask me often to clarify why I have decided to leave all that is comfortable and known for the unknown and ‘less than’. It’s hard to articulate in a brief statement without losing their attention. But I think a thorough explanation is needed to sort of see the world through my eyes from this point forward. So in thinking how to best relay where I’m coming from, this thought came to mind. I have done some events as a motivational speaker. The following is a talk I gave for a Beta Club Induction Ceremony in 2008. ***************************************************************************************************************** There’s a biblical verse that says, To whom much is given, much is required. This applies aptly to all of you. You have been blessed with talent and gifts that many dream of having but can never attain. Thanks to those who pushed you; your parents, grandparents…kindergarten teachers, civics teachers… or whomever. Now I don’t say that blow up your heads. Quite the contrary. Referring back to the original quote, To whom much is given, much is required. I tell you this to challenge you. I tell you this to focus you towards your destiny. If you are aware of the current state of the world- more specifically, our country- you understand that we are at a critical time in history. The world that you will have to navigate is a different world than your parents and grandparents were raised. Social institutions as we know them are changing. The world is moving faster and becoming more complex. Societies are rapidly emerging in small corners around the world that will influence how you live your life right here in America. And there are whole communities that are facing destruction if solutions to their viability aren’t made evident in the near future. “The systems of belief of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln said those words over a hundred years ago in observation of the upheaval of his country in the midst of a civil war. They capture perfectly the since of urgency in our world today. a. 577,000 people die each year from cancer in United States; 1,639,00 diagnosed each year. b. 15,000 people die each year of AIDS in United States. c. Some of the effects of global warming are already being realized as we document the increased rate of the melting polar glaciers. d. Millions of people around the world are displaced because of natural disaster or social conflict. The most practical thing about the Beta Club organization is its emphasis on service. “Let us lead by serving others” the motto reads. This organization can be seen as an introduction to who you are destined to be. Most of your peers will not experience giving back to one’s community until the need directly affects their family or immediate neighbors. Nearly all community service or any act of altruism in today’s society usually is met through a religious organization. Most of our youth will grow into adulthood without having had the experience of giving back, serving their community or using their talent and skill to add to humanity. But I want to expand your way of thinking. Yes, serving your fellow man is the truest way to demonstrate leadership, but there are more ways to serve than working at a soup kitchen or blood drive. The world is also in need of those with strength of mind. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas”. You see evidence of this everyday in the halls at Robinson…in the mall…on television…parents, at the workplace. Instead of being captivated by information that will effect the world and how you will live in it, the dominate conversations are always focused on the latest headlines on MTV. Listen to this: (from U.S. News and World Report) Currently, 25% of the population of the U.S. — the country that invented the airplane and the light bulb and landed men on the moon— qualify as “civic scientifically literate.” In practical terms says the investigator, that means that only one in four adults can read and understand the stories in the weekly science section of The New York Times. And this comes at a time when the U.S. voters are being asked to grapple with — and reach informed decisions about —complex questions as global warming and stem cell research. Someone needs to rise above the fray. Which of you will come to the rescue? If the simple discussion of “people and events” consume our thoughts and energy, we will stagnate as a society. Hopefully, you cast yourself in the lot with those of great minds. One who will focus on ideas…one who’s ideas, or its discussion and manipulation, will one day change the world. I used to be the Student Council advisor here at Robinson. And a vision I wanted my kids to embrace was the concept of them using everything; every experience, every learned trait and every skill as a tool to be added to their utility belt for future purpose. My favorite superhero is Batman. I love Batman… a lot. I have batman icons on my computers, I-Touch and phone. I have batman tee-shirts, batman posters, batman bed sheets… well not that, but you get the point. Now, I know others have their own personal superheroes too, and usually for cool reasons. Superman- because he flies and is indestructible… well, except the kryptonite thing. Or Super Stretch…because of the stretchy thing he can do. But what resonates most with me about Batman is the fact that he is a superhero, but doesn’t have superhuman abilities. He can’t fly…or run faster than normal, nor does he even have super strength. He simply uses his mind and invented gadgets to overcome his obstacle. I said he uses his mind. He literally can be anyone of us. Or to say it differently, anyone of us can potentially be a hero. To significantly affect the world, you need to not only be able to collect and manipulate information, you need to also be able to have the courage to use it. How does one stock their utility belt? How does one use his mind to make a difference? If you want to excel in an area, you need to become a student of it’s history and all of the prior detail in that area. You must immerse yourself in all that has been, before you can influence what is to be. Then as the German humanitarian, Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply.” Researchers in New Mexico have found a way of using sunlight to recycle carbon dioxide and produce fuels like gasoline. Scientists in the phase III trial of a HIV vaccine in Thailand showed promising results towards a cure. (Can you imagine finding the cure to AIDS?) Scientists at the University of California at Berkley have developed an invisible cloak…seriously, an invisible cloak! (I don’t know why that’s important… it just sounded cool) This is not the work of the faint of heart or the weak of mind. This is the calling and destiny of those with not only the sharpest minds, but also to those not afraid to use those minds to its fullest capacity… its fullest potential. You have to have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more you gain, the more is your desire…the more you see, the more you are capable of seeing. Strength of mind is not only a burden, but more importantly the key to influence. Those with knowledge and understand its power will be in a position to influence the masses of people who are unaware or simply don’t realize it’s value. If you forego this truth, you are fated to be held captive to those who will wield their knowledge over you. I’m not saying that to persuade you to be guarded or cruel. I say these things to encourage you- to heal the world. And if you have knowledge, to let others light their candles in it. Those with knowledge then, and have a pursuit thereof; will move mountains and reshape life as we know it.
Through years of teaching and advising Student Council, this has evolved into my main message. This is what I tried to inspire my kids to strive for. To use their strengths, gifts and talents to give back and add to the world community. Well, sometimes things get to a point were you gotta practice what you preach. Oh, and something else I will miss. My city’s skyline. Love. Love. Love.
“Gonna make a change For once in my life It’s gonna feel real good Gonna make a difference Gonna make it right…”
Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson