-Herb Brooks, US Olympic Hockey Team Coach- 1980
How many times have you witnessed in person or on TV an extraordinary feat or accomplishment in sports or a personal triumph? Perhaps the Men’s USA hockey team winning the gold medal at the Olympics or watching my friend Rowdy Gaines in 1984 win three Olympic gold medals four years after he was in the prime of his swimming career. Or Nelson Mandela being freed from a South African prison after 27 years. Or Felix Baumgartner in 2012 free falling from an altitude of 127,822 feet, reaching speeds approaching 844 MPH before his Red Bull parachute opened and returned him safely to earth. These are unforgettable moments in history that resonate with large swaths of people. Sometimes they must be seen to be believed.
With cell phone cameras and CCTV almost everywhere, we often see random acts of kindness or courage where someone faces adversity to help a person in need. Maybe it is helping an elderly woman who is a victim of a random attack on a street corner or train station; maybe it’s in a church or at a ball field—perhaps pulling an exhausted animal out of a frozen pond. These are great moments of triumph that are born from great opportunity.
And yet other times, we witness truly disappointing events that, with different people or circumstances, the outcome could have been amazing. One example is witnessing the downward spiral of some political leaders who constantly engage in name-calling, demagoguing, or just a lack of statesmanship. Just think how great our nation could be if they sat down and worked full days and weeks at legislating and arguing their point rather than fundraising or positioning for their few minutes of fame on cable tv. What if they worked as hard at persuading us as discounting us?
I understand the job can be difficult in many ways, but too many elected officials spend much of their time simply looking for sound bites and posturing. They are not creating anything. They are not making a product or enhancing a service. They aren’t on the floor of a manufacturing plant learning how hard it is to make things, and rarely are they in the middle of a key policy discussion trying to make the seemingly impossible be possible. We have elected officials who have accomplished very little in their lives but have figured out how to get elected and stay on the public payroll for extended periods.
What if we demanded they rise to the occasion like Mandela did, or the US hockey team did, or Rowdy Gaines and Felix Baumgartner did? What if accomplished, humble people decided to give of themselves in the public forum, contribute to the public good and then return home to their everyday lives and jobs living in the society they helped to create and mold? There are great opportunities to make history right now. Who will seize this moment of greatness?