Category Archives: Flight 93

The Third Man on the Podium

The time was 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement in America was at its peak.  Only months earlier the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated and there was unrest in the streets and hatred in the air.  Faced with the challenge (or opportunity) to make a statement on a World Stage about civil rights as a white person, would you have the courage to do it?

Peter Norman did.  Peter Norman, an average white Australian male who just happened to be in the right place, at the right time didn’t hesitate to make a statement.  And he never wavered on his position until his death last week.

Who is Peter Norman?  He was the Silver Medal winner in the 200 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City or “The Third Man on the Podium”.

podium.jpgNo matter how old you are you surely have seen the picture.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their fists clenched above their bowed heads.  But have you ever stopped to think about the third person in that picture?  Who he was or what his reaction to this must have been?  I hadn’t.  Not until today when I read Mike Wise’s article “Clenched Fists, Helping Hand” in The Washington Post. 

In ways it was refreshing to know that Smith and Carlos told Norman beforehand what they planned to do.  Instead of alerting officials he chose to actively participate in the protest by wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. 

  

You have to ask yourself, “What would I do?”

This is a question many of us have asked ourselves since 9/11.  If we were on Flight 93 or any flight where terrorists tried to hijack the plane, how would we react?  That is a pretty extreme situation that is truly a matter of life and death and we all would like to think we would be like Todd Beamer and those heroes on Flight 93. 

But what about a situation that does not put your life or others immediately at risk?  What if it is a social statement that could risk you stature among your friends or in Norman’s case, his country.  Would you have the courage to do the right thing? 

I always enjoyed John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage when I was growing up and always felt it should be required reading in school.  I am sure if they were updated today, Peter Norman and his courage at the 1968 Olympics would be among the stories.

So ask yourself and answer honestly, “What would you do?”  If you find it hard to answer then you are in the right mindset because nothing of great consequence should be easy to answer.  The next time you are faced with the dilemma of doing the right thing or just ignoring the problem, think of people like Peter Norman and know that you can make a difference.

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“9/11” – What will it be remembered for?

I picked a heck of a day to enter my first official post on my blog – “9/11”

Even NBC was smart enough not to have this be Meredith Viera’s first day on the Today Show.

But, here it is and here we are marking the five year anniversary of a tragedy that forever changed our lives.  It is a somber day for everyone and you can hear it and feel it when you speak with people.  They may not mention “9/11” but you can tell it is on their mind. 

I did not know any one personally who died that day.  I had met Todd Beamer (of the flight 93 “Let’s Roll” fame) one time as we both worked for Oracle.  But I wouldn’t say I knew him well and in fact couldn’t guarantee I had actually met him except a friend reminded me of a time when I would have worked with him on a particular sales opportunity.

The brother of a colleague of mine perished at the Pentagon and a former teacher at my kids’ middle school also died at the Pentagon.  But I didn’t really “know” anyone who died that day.

Regardless, it is still a day that I will never forget.  Not so much because of any fear it might have instilled in me, but just recognizing the changes to our everyday lives it would bring.  We hear a lot of talk about how our lives will never be the same and while this is certainly true, I have to wonder and have hope that one day “9/11” will fade from our everyday worries and become only a day to remember those who lost their lives in the events of that date.

Just like December 7, 1941 or November 22, 1963  were, September 11, 2001 is a date that  will be a defining moment in our generation.  Depending upon one’s age, everyone can tell you where they were when they first heard of the events that occurred on these three dates. 

But today The Attack on Pearl Harbor and the JFK Assassination are largely just memories of terrible losses.  We know that Pearl Harbor led us into World War II and we know that society, our innocence and our view of government changed with the death of John F. Kennedy.  But what does “9/11” signify?

Perhaps it is still too soon to understand or begin to label how “9/11” will be remembered. It certainly is too soon to know what future generations will think when they hear “9/11” or September 11, 2001.  I hope they have similar thoughts as I do when I hear December 7th or November 22nd:  Events with tragic losses but events that eventually led to a more peaceful world and a world of greater responsibility and caring for all.

Or heck, maybe they will remember it as the day I wrote my first official blog.