Form I Dean and Math Teacher Dijon Anderson speaks about the role courage has played in his life and issues a challenge to the boys during a Middle School ethics assembly. Here is a lightly edited version of his remarks.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
I am afraid of roller coasters. The mere thought of listening to the announcer say, ‘Have a good trip’, while this huge germ-infested brace folds over my lap without a seatbelt, escalates me hundreds of feet in the air with no border and without a seatbelt only to drop me at 9.8 meters per second and let me toss, turn and swirl aimlessly in the air has never been an appealing thought.
A coworker once convinced me to go on one but stand in the front seat. I had to be the first to rapidly escalate up a hill to be dropped and then go through a loop where I felt my eyes loosely circulate in the back of my head. Meanwhile, she is screaming in excitement while I was thinking about ways to end our work relationship. I am not courageous in this way, nor do I feel the need to be.
However, on January 2, 2023, the Buffalo Bills played the Cincinnati Bengals. As you may have seen or heard, Damar Hamlin of the Bills went down. The medical team performed CPR and gave him oxygen. He was rushed to a hospital two miles away where he was in critical condition. Both teams were completely shaken. Announcers did not know what to say. And a looming question that weighed on the hearts of many was, ‘Should the game continue?’ The coaches pulled their players into the locker room for everyone to regroup. Consider this: the NFL is a multibillion-dollar business with a schedule. The playoffs are around the corner with a Super Bowl that is to be played within a month. Were the players going to come back out to play? They didn’t. They stood for their teammate. They saw the bigger picture. Football or life? They chose to stay in the locker room and pray.
Jemele Hill tweeted, “If the coaches and players hadn’t said anything, the NFL would have had these guys playing five minutes after seeing one of their peers receive CPR for several minutes.” In my opinion, there was absolutely no way they could go back on the field when their teammate, peer, college roommate, player, and friend was not sure if he would live to see the next day. From the coaches to the players, not to go back out was courage exemplified.
I have never considered myself to be a highly courageous person. I cannot stand roller coasters. I am uncomfortable when I venture out and do new things. The zip line at Adventure Park horrifies me. I freaked out the first time I tried oysters. Not doing it again. I get nervous if I spend over $50 on an item that I do not believe I need. My dress is conservative. Many of you know that I sing, but I am terribly apprehensive of doing a solo. Meeting new people at social functions brings me anxiety. I do not take uncalculated risks. My financial portfolio is almost down the middle. Why do I mention these when we talk about courage? Because courage comes in a variety of ways.
This month during our Ethics and Community classes, we will be focusing on courage and perseverance. According to our lesson this past Wednesday, we spoke of the four different types of courage: moral, disciplined, intellectual, and empathetic. I am positive that I have shown all of these at some time or another during my life.
I am reminded of my time at Howard University during my junior and senior years. I was always the one that would not go to the wrong hang outs. You see, I grew up as a PK (a preacher's kid). Usually, the stereotype is that we are mischievous and daring. Not me. My friends in college would often smoke a little or drink a little. I would never do it. I still chat with these friends to this day. What stood out to me was a day we all met up in DC. They said, ‘Dijon, you were always the one who did the right thing. We should have listened to you so we would not have gotten into half of the trouble we did.’ Here’s the deal…it’s not like I did not want to join them. They were my friends. And besides they always seemed to have fun. It got to the point that they would not even invite me because they knew my stance. Because of my stance to stand out I often stood alone. However, their comment reminded me of why I needed to have the courage to say, ‘No.’
Sometimes, it is hard to say no. But it also takes courage to say, ‘No’.
There is a story in Sh’mu’el Bet (2 Samuel 5:6) that talks about a king named David. It reads as follows:
The king and his men went to Yerushalayim to attack the Y’vusi, the inhabitants of that region. They taunted David, “You won’t get in here! Even the blind and the lame could fend you off!” — in other words, they were thinking, “David will never get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Tziyon, also known [now] as the City of David.
Nevertheless. An interesting word meaning ‘in spite of…’a situation. It’s a word I want stated in my biography. Mr. Anderson, needed to finish his college career. He was in class with students half his age. Nevertheless, he found the courage to attend class and graduate.
I want to hear of the intellectual courage from our Landon students like a sixth-grade math student I taught. In my lesson, I taught a concept from the textbook. He, nevertheless, identified an error and found the courage to justify his response and prove me and the textbook incorrect.
I witness the empathetic courage of Landon students who each day wait at the PAC doors to hold them open. These sixth grade boys have every right to go to lunch like everyone else and be first in line. Nevertheless, they wait till the last student has entered the building before they get their own food, giving them less time to eat.
I see a disciplined courage, as one student who wants to begin a sock drive to help the homeless. This student has been blessed to have presumably everything he needs. Nevertheless, he wants to make a positive impact on our world, giving to those in need, one sock at a time.
I want to hear of the moral courage from our middle school boys like those who stand their ground and don’t involve themselves with the foolishness of unfortunate class disruptions. The disruptions and disrespect can often be amusing. Nevertheless, these students would rather see all their classmates learn and win, even when the disruptions appear more appealing.
Boys, courage comes in all shapes and sizes. You do not have to be a world-renowned figure fighting a country or establishment. You will hear of courageous figures as Harriet Tubman, Ghandi, and Helen Keller, who overcame the dual disability of deaf-blindness and helped improve treatment of deaf people. Or even 20-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish schoolgirl who became a global leader for environmental issues and protested global warming.
However, I want to hear names like Alex Farahpour, Hudson Haas, Reagan Diaz and Max Finkel circulated for making the effort to demonstrate courage. I will witness figures like Zelensky, the Duke & Duchess of Sussex, and Malala as people who stood for the right things in my lifetime. But, I also want to hear names like Jeremiah Labisi, Donte Artis, Lars Bergstrom, and Leo Fields who will stand for the hard right over the easy wrong. It’s the nevertheless.
Nevertheless, in the face of my obstacles, I….
Nevertheless, in the face of your challenges, you…
Thank you for listening.