▼Breakthrough Ideas for July 2012 (Part 2 of 2)▼
CLICK PLAY BELOW TO WATCH MOVIE. TOLERATE NO DISTRACTION.
that needs to be said about the movie above on the pioneering of Open Heart Surgery, has,
I believe, been said in Part 1 of 2. Part 2 of 2 is about my thought wrestles with divergent
but stimulating issues related to Poverty, the absence and/or denial of opportunity as well
as the role of resilience more so than education, in turning disadvantaged people into well
accomplished individuals. In 2007 I began writing a book codenamed dignitatis humanae.
That is where the title of this blog, “The Battle for Human Dignity”, comes from. Some-
times in life, you start off well. And through creative persistence and a combination of
skill, great relationships, timing and being in the right place or country, one continues
excelling. However, as John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you're
busy making other plans”. And I like that quote because it offers great opportunity
for a story. About a year before starting college, I was befriended by the humble
son of a very wealthy man for whom I worked. Let's call him quiet and shy Jim.
It was a summertime job upstate New York and I got the job because my mom
was on his payroll & he liked me. Well, my job involved cutting trees in the
woods of his a huge estate which came with a long golf course, gym, cot-
tage & a riverside cottage not to mention the longest driveway I'd ever
seen. I liked Jim. But he had arrogant and aloof siblings who made me
question whether a rich (but nice white) boy who'd revealed to me
his father “took care” of his Stanford application & that he didn't
fill any forms out himself, could understand the plight of a black
boy like me. Still, I often joined him when he pulled up in his
Mercedes-Benz® to invite me out. And when it was time for
college, that car was shipped to California for him while I
navigated the New York Metro & arrived in Philadelphia.
It's from the platform of a 30th Street Station escalator
that was broken that I continued dragging my stuff on
the streets of Philadelphia till I arrived on my new
predominantly white, affluent campus, sweating
profusely and probably smelling too, as others
arrived in their expensive cars with parents
& pets. Heavyweight legend Mike Tyson
aptly observed that: “Everyone has a
plan—until they get punched in the
face”. Jim's education plans took
him all the way to Wall Street.
Mine,with several punches in
the face, from Philadelphia
and Europe to China, has
forced me, sometimes
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I'm from the Bronx.
Try telling that to someone feeling trapped (and armed) in the South Bronx, Washington Heights, North Philly, or Compton just to name a few. And if you live to tell your story, I promise you, just as it happened to me, even variations of the question: “How are you?” will be uttered with greater caution and situational awareness. If for no better reason than that you can't just walk up to a stranger with the presumption, however slight or well-intended, that you have a better solution, especially when you don't feed or clothe them. That said, some of these areas have seen dramatic decrease in crime. And at least in my case, my adopted home is Philly (i.e., Philadelphia).
And yet the genius of Schuller's remark is that much like Einstein who said, “if at first an idea doesn't sound absurd, then there is no hope for it”, you find yourself nodding, or and leaning forward as your thought wrestles with the endless possibilities that statement conjures up.
Let me be clear: I'm not talking about rich quiet Jim above who by the way, had lost his ability to connect with poor(er) folks by the time he graduated Stanford. I know this before I talked to him and saw the great shift.
I'm not talking about those privileged bratty netizens who utter phrases like “if you don't like a place, move!” which is just as bad, thoughtless, aloof, and fallacious as that Go Back To Your Country nonsense I debunked over two years ago. Or even, if I may digress momentarily, the “We're living in a post-racial America because we elected Barack Obama. Move on!” diatribe. No. I'm not.
Still, like Hemingway's further below, I embrace Schuller's challenge because it forces the individual to elevate his or her game. So that rather than being a victim as discussed in Part 1 of 2 à la Dr. Vivien Thomas (above) — or even the author, who unlike any other country he ever lived in, has had to contend with a concerted, virtual, consistent, advanced and multi-thronged 360° effort to repress, oppress, downpress, subvert, sabotage and keep shackled in a cage of retrogression whether through professional jealousy borne out of individual insecurities and/or stifled and technologically choregraphed deceit — the struggle to continue being of value by rising higher in service to, and for a better world, must continue.
When advocate, author, commentator and PBS Host Tavis Smiley tweeted: “Poverty is a character flaw. FALSE! Poverty is a lack of money. Period”, it was favorited by 35 people retweeted 147 times. And anyone who isn't aloof or won't roll their eyes upon hearing Princeton Professor Cornel West and Mr. Smiley are collaborating in a war (or if you like, Poverty Tour) against Poverty in America & Denial of Opportunity in America, understand why.
I commend all that, and I'm engaged in that fight as well, right here in China.
Nevertheless, I'll give the last word on my Breakthrough Ideas for July 2012 to Ernest Hemingway, because it was that kind of growth mindset that led me to build a successful career in Philadelphia and Delaware Valley before going on, despite assaults on my dignity in Europe, to conquer Europe, figuratively speaking. I believe that's what the times call for. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances or difficulties. That's what Dr. Vivien Thomas did, with a great woman standing by his side. And I wish you well.
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