What is courage? Courage is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without - or by overcoming - fear. I think we can agree that the men and women of our armed forces, fire departments and police departments exhibit courage whenever they head into harm's way. I think we can also agree that people we know or have heard stories about people who have faced life-threatening disease, illness, or other extreme situations and the courage they exhibited.
He made the air force a career, but eventually retired and opened a business in New York City - a diner on Fifth Avenue. He took the subway to work every morning at 5:00 a.m. and returned home at 8:00 p.m. Many times he worked on the weekend as well, but when he wasn't working he spent time with the Little Sisters of the Poor in the South Bronx. There he met and had an audience with Mother Teresa. He and his wife put their sons through college without any loans. He outlived a son, a grandson and his beloved wife of 64 years. He went blind, hard of hearing, and had two heart surgeries. He walked at least two miles and did 100 pushups (albeit with his knees on the floor) each day. He proudly invented the milkaphone (a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut off that he used as a megaphone) - he couldn't see or hear much of went on during Peddie football games, but he wanted to be sure the players and coaches could hear him! He finally passed away on Christmas day, three days before his ninety-seventh birthday. He and his wife were buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
I tell you this story because if I changed just a few things, I could be describing the lives of your parents or guardians; everyday people who exhibit perseverance and courage each and every day. It takes courage and perseverance to get up day in and day out to go to work - often not to the "perfect" job. You do it for those you love and care about. You need to remember that and not take it for granted. Thank your parents or guardians every single day for the life you are privileged to have. Honor your parents, your guardians, your family, and most importantly yourselves by persevering and being courageous every minute of every day. It will not always be easy. We are all human, and we will falter. But I know this. Although I have a good way to go, if I can succeed at being half the man, half the husband, and half the father that my father was, then when my time comes, I will rest easy knowing I was a successful and courageous person.
So, love and thank your parents and guardians. Respect and appreciate your teachers and coaches. Encourage and support your classmates. And once in a while - just once in a while - give yourself a little credit. Be strong - be courageous - persevere!