Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stand Up

The Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Cory Booker, made national news recently after running into a burning building to rescue his neighbors.

Now, I am the furthest thing from political, and I do not bring him up to praise a certain party or herald a political cause or to demean or diminish the good work and life saving actions carried out by service men and women every day (police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, military personnel, etc.). I was impressed. I was amazed. I was inspired.

With no formal training and against the advice of his security detail, he ran into a burning building and rescued someone.

What made this action even more poignant to me was the fact that I shook hands with Mr. Booker once. He was the commencement speaker at my graduation from the University of Notre Dame's ACE Teaching Program in 2003. His address to us was so powerful (to me at least) that I not only remember the feeling it / he evoked in me, but much of the message. Well delivered and well-written, it was probably the best speech for which I've ever been present.

Since hearing his speech, I've kept tabs on Mr. Booker, watching his career from afar. Hoping that the passion with which he spoke was inspired by a passion within himself (or in other words, that he practices what he preaches), I've been excited to see him take on larger and larger roles as a public servant. I was affirmed in my admiration of him when I heard of this act of heroism.

He went into a burning building and saved a life.

Mayor Booker's commencement address touched on standing up for others, standing up for that in which we believe, and ultimately taking action to make the world a better place. The recurring phrase was "stand up" and it became the theme of his speech.

At the end of it, I stood. Everyone did. He received, as I'm sure happens often, a standing ovation.

His words were enough for all in the audience to stand up. We took action, even if for a brief moment, and stood up on our feet and applauded. How much more could and should we do to stand up as a result of his actions?

Catholic schools should be places where students learn how to stand up for that in which they believe. They should be places where teachers, administrators, parents and other adults practice what they preach. They should be places that move students to not just stand up but to go out and make the world a better place.

Because, while we have wonderful modern day models like Mayor Booker to emulate, Catholic schools have the Greatest Role Model Ever - Jesus. He went up to the top of the cross to save us all and His words and actions should inspire us to follow Him wherever He leads us.

Up into burning buildings. Into war-torn countries. Into poverty and ill-stricken lands. Anywhere.

Sometimes the first step isn't a step at all.

Stand up...and follow Him.  

(The following is a mash-up / found poem of Mayor Booker's 2003 Commencement Address and excerpts from The Legend of Baggar Vance by Steven Pressfield (1996) that I wrote in 2004):

Life is action
We cannot do otherwise than act
Even in choosing not to act we do.
We act.
Therefore, act with vigor.
Act without attachment.
Hold nothing back.
Strike and act without fear or forethought.
Do honor to yourself and to your station.
Simply act.
Stand up
And act.
Stand up and allow the destiny you once chose to choose you.
Chip away all that is inauthentic.
Allow its purity to emerge.
Let it reek of life- something wild and pure.
Fly with winged sandals on your feet and enter the spirit.
Stand now!
Take your place amidst something ancient and noble
Where great armies once clashed in battle
Blows thundering heavenward with ringing steel
Horses and men crying out in victory and defeat.
Simply act.
Simply do.
Simply be.
Stand up!
Stand and let all that you are shine in His magnificence
Let yourself burst forth from this stone
Let it come from that place deep inside yourself
That place that was there before you ever were
and will remain once you are no more.
He was with you on that ancient battlefield and He is with you now.
You are never alone. 
No sin, no lapse, no crime can make Him desert you.
He will never abandon you. 
For you never were then, nor will you be now, alone.
He is always with you.
Even when it seems as though you are drowning, in that hour remember Him.
He will preserve you.
Therefore, stand up!
Stand now!
And live!