It is a well-known fact that the words we speak and what we count, matter. In the past week, several examples of both are worth noting.
The Hill we Climb
At last week’s Presidential inauguration ceremony, 23-year-old Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill we Climb.” Presented with intellect, passion, and sincerity, Ms. Gorman challenged Americans to leave behind a better Nation than that which they were given. “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” Powerful words by an amazing young woman, and words we all should take the time to read and think upon. Her words are timely and important, rich with meaning and purpose.
A major accomplishment was also noted related to COVID this past weekend. More than 6,000 area residents received their first dose of the vaccine Friday and Saturday. This was possible due to the incredible and continued commitment of the employees of the local health district and Carilion Clinic, along with the ongoing support of area emergency managers and volunteers with the Medical Reserve Corps. While we certainly have a long way to go, there are now thousands of educators and those over 65 years of age who are at less risk from the virus, and because of that, this is one statistic we should be excited and hopeful about.
This past week saw the passing of baseball legend Henry Aaron. Aaron was one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game of baseball, most notably breaking what has long been considered one of the most significant records in the game—the number of home runs in a career. As significant as the record breaking was, the fact that it was broken by a man of color and that most of those home runs came in the midst of the national fight for civil rights, is perhaps even more notable. It was a record not easily broken, either athletically or mentally. It took Aaron, who started his career in the Negro Leagues playing for $200 a month, 20 years to break a record that had stood for almost 40 years. Along the way, Aaron endured the racism and hate so common through much of our history, though he was the recipient of a long standing ovation by more than 50,000 fans in Atlanta upon hitting number 715. Aaron ended his career with 755 home runs, which would not be topped for another 30-plus years. Aaron, a Hall of Famer, collected a great many numbers that mean a lot to the game of baseball and to the history of America.
Last week was also the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, marking his birthday some 92 years ago. Though many of Dr. King’s words are significant and remembered, his last are particularly worth noting. Speaking to a group of municipal workers he, just like Ms. Gorman all these many years later, spoke to a higher purpose for every American. He “had been to the top of the mountain and had seen the Promised Land” and had worked his entire life—eventually gave his life—to help move all toward that Land. His word mattered, his life mattered, and his cause matters still.
People, not words or numbers make history, but what they say and do, can and does have a profound impact, leaving a legacy well beyond their lifetimes. As we utter our own words and generate our own statistics, may they be as significant and meaningful as these noted above.
-- Bob Cowell