Strength and Courage

Strength and Courage

Nov. 13, 2012

Student reflects on lessons from last week's John Carlos lecture.

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Karla Dubey is a Pacific University freshman and writing intern with Pacific magazine. Last week, she attended a lecture on campus by John Carlos, Olympic athlete and activist. The following are her thoughts from the evening:

In front of a full auditorium, John Carlos was introduced as an Olympic champion and accomplished activist. He was credited with worlds like “strength” and “unity.”

It was hard not to have respect for the man about to speak. But the moment he got up on stage, he said, “I am you.”

He said there was just one difference between him and all of us—the students in the crowd: “At a very young age, I had a chance to look at myself in the mirror and like myself when no one else liked me.”

Amid racism and discrimination, he liked himself. Even when his own father told him there was no room for black people in the Olympics, and even when millions of others had been taught to be ashamed of the color of their skin, he had the strength and courage to be proud of who he was.

In the first five minutes, Carlos had me both amazed and memorized. During his talk, he told us, “Whatever God gave me in my talent as a runner, it made people smile … made people forget about agony and pain.”

If there was one thing he emphasized, it was that he never ran for himself; he ran so that people would listen. He ran for those who were too afraid to take a stand, for those who had nothing but holes in their pockets, for those who looked in the mirror and said “I don’t like me. I don’t want to be me.”

He did it for the husbands and fathers who wished they could “pull the moon down to set on the dinner table” for their families.

He ran representing his fellow man, and when he stood on the Olympic pedestal with his black glove fisted in the air, he emitted nothing but strength and unity. He was a rock that rippled through a calm river, letting the world know that something was wrong, and he stood for making it right.

I walked out of the auditorium last week reflecting on my own purpose in life and realizing that, in the next four years at Pacific, that is exactly what I will be striving to find. It’s essentially why we’re all here: to build a better future and find out more about ourselves along the way. All of the experiences, accomplishments, even the mistakes, will help us find our answers.

Carlos closed by telling us to stand up for what is right, and that it is our job to get up and get out. As college students, now is the perfect time to ask questions, take a stand for what’s right—even when sometimes the line between right and wrong is blurred—and in Carlos’ words: “Show some love even when there’s no crisis.”