If you have watched the news, any news, over the past two weeks it would be hard not to have learned about Jeremy Lin, the Harvard educated point guard for the New York Knicks who has taken the NBA (and the world) by storm. I will preface all I am about to say by stating I grew up a Knicks fan during the Patrick Ewing era, as a native New Yorker (How you doin?-my poor attempt at a NY accent) and as a boy who dreamed about playing second base for the Yankees.
Jeremy Lin has had one of the best starts to an NBA career as anyone in the history of the game. Yet, he has been cut by several teams and was playing in the NBA “D” League (they need to come up with a better name) just a few weeks ago, prior to getting a chance to start with the Knicks. Boy has he made the most of his opportunity. Super Lintendo, as Jeremy has said is his favorite nickname so far, redefines the terms late bloomer and and diamond in the rough. How did so many teams pass up on him? Why is he now all of a sudden so good? Will he last? I will let the the sports folks answer those questions. Just turn on your radio, tv or twitter account and you will hear the opinions.
The transcending piece of all of this is the message that Jeremy Lin has sent to anyone who is watching or listening. Don’t ever give up. You never know when your opportunity will come. Jeremy Lin did not know this was “his time”, but he was ready for it. As educators, this message is essential for us to share with our students and staff. We are in the business of developing realized and unrealized potential. Jeremy Lin, so beautifully illustrates this. Carpe Diem! Jeremy Lin initially seized the day, and now has seized the world.
So this weekend I am going to the batting cages and will have Jack and Andrew hit ground balls to me at second base. If I am lucky a scout from the Yankees will be watching and I can get a “late” invite to spring training. And when I wake up from that dream I will remind myself that dreaming and hard work are not a bad thing, and preparing for “that opportunity” is what we can encourage our kids to do. Jeremy Lin was clearly prepared.
Next to my mom, a teacher herself, no other educator inspired me more than Mary McLeod Bethune. I never knew who Mary McLeod Bethune was until I got to college. I wish I had learned about Mary McLeod Bethune when I was as a child. She was not part of any of my history lessons growing up. But, she should be for our kids.
It was not until I was a senior in college that I got to know this incredible educator, political advisor and voice for the black community. It was during my senior year in college that I had to research and write my thesis as a history major. One day, while in a history course I came across the “black cabinet” while studying The New Deal. This informal group of advisors to FDR had been led by Mary McLeod Bethune and had great access to the president during the days of the great depression. Bethune and the “black cabinet” were a fascinating study and became the focus of my senior thesis.
At her core, Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator who wanted all children to have access to a great education. At her height, she was a friend and an advisor to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, sharing the voice of the black community during the days of the New Deal and the Great Depression. We are blessed to have her home in DC, in Logan Circle, on the list of National Historic Places. It is in this home where she would meet with the “black cabinet” and from there where she would walk to the White House to meet with FDR.
As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember this great educator, humanitarian and Washington insider. Mary McLeod Bethune used her influence to provide a voice for a community that had none at the time and was an example for the great civil rights activists after her. A statue dedicated to Bethune in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC (displayed above) is engraved with the following quote:
“I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you, finally, a responsibility to our young people.”
This is what Mary McLeod Bethune taught me. Priceless wisdom. Timeless advice.