Friday, January 23, 2009

"If we walk long enough . . .

... and talk long enough, we might come to understand one another."

That was one of Jesse Owens' favorite sayings, one he learned from his high school track coach. And it's one of mine. Ever since I first saw the made-for-TV movie about Jesse Owens' life back in the 80's, he has been an inspiration to me, especially in the way he worked with young people. His way of dealing with troubled kids was to walk and talk. Wh
ere others would yell and punish, he would walk and talk until they understood each other.

Jesse didn't like confrontation. Much of how he lived his life gives ample evidence to this. And yet, in that same life he not only confronted Hitler on a world-wide stage, he also dared the United States government to confront him when he didn't pay income tax for several years. I showed the movie to our 7th-12th graders this week. For an hour each morning, Wednesday-Friday, they sat mesmerized by this great man's story. Some of the things he faced, the prejudice, the disrespect, is unthinkable. But he met it all with dignity. And ultimately victory.

I especially appreciate his philosophy of trying to make something good out of a difficult situation (the walking and talking). I wrote about him and how his philosophy has influenced me as a principal in my early blogging days. You can read that entry here. Meanwhile, here are some of my other favorite quotes of his:

--Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it and you'll start believing in it.

--To me, we must learn to spell the word RESPECT. We must respect the rights and properties of our fellowman. And then learn to play the game of life as well as the game of athletics, according to the rules of society. If you can take that and put it into practice in the community in which you live, then, to me you have won the greatest championship.

--One chance is all you need.

--The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself--the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us--that's where it's at.

--The only bond worth anything between human beings is their humanness.

--We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.

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