The Man in the Arena

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On April 15th I had the pleasure of attending the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation Awards and Scholarships, followed by the 38th Annual Scholarship Awards Presentations hosted by the Malton Black Development Association (MBDC) on April the 16th. It was inspiring and breathtaking to be surrounded by such ambition, optimism and enthusiasm. As I keenly listened to all the accomplishments, sanguinities and aspirations of the recipients I was constantly reflecting on the character and resiliency of these young achievers. There were students that faced insurmountable odds like cancer, extreme poverty or surviving life-threatening and cruel bullying. There were students that from birth were determined to succeed despite any obstacle that they encountered. But what was clear and evident is that they were the young Men and Women in the Arena.

The Keynote speaker at the Future Aces scholarship ceremony, Mrs. Elizabeth Trotter from the Trotter Family Foundation, challenged the recipients to never lose sight of their goals and work with unfettered determination and humility to succeed. She spoke about the importance of having a plan and challenging anyone who tries to discourage or side line your dreams. The Honorable Justice Michael Tulloch who is currently on the Ontario Court of Appeal delivered a thought provoking message to the recipients of the MBDA scholarship dinner. He spoke of the value of persistence, positive attitude and hard work. He illustrated his points using poignant quotes from presidents and pastors. I will briefly summarize both messages for the several students that are gearing up to take exams and are preparing for life after graduation.

Persistence was an important quality and Justice Tulloch quoted Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Essentially, we must be like my two year old daughter Ruth that will ask the same question relentlessly until she gets what she wants. Ruth is undeterred by a distracted or a nonresponsive parent, not even a no. She will simply ask until she gets the banana, the crayons or her puzzle.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” These profound words were captured by Chuck Swindoll who challenges us all to make the best of our situation. There are certain aspects of our life that we cannot change. For example we may never grow beyond six feet but that did not mean we can’t play basketball. Muggsy Bogues at

5’3” was one of the NBA’S best point guards in the 1990s. Considering the average height of a basketball player is 6’7”; most men of Muggsy stature would never even dream of playing in the NBA. But Muggsy dared to dream, and armed with a great attitude, overcompensated for his height or lack of height, by shear talent, agility and skill.

Resiliency, my favourite quality, because when I hear about the stories of some of our students I am often amazed that they come to school day after day and that they learn. It’s “The Man in the Arena”, that resilient student that will achieve despite the naysayers, the impediments and the hurdles in their path. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he stated “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

As a student at Immaculate Conception High, in Jamaica, we would recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night”. So, students, as you prepare for exams and life after exams, remember that Persistence, A Positive Attitude and Resilience are tools that will facilitate the accomplishing of your life’s ambition. Most importantly remember to set your goals and don’t lose sight of them. The path to realizing these goals may not always conform to your original blueprint but remember ‘the journey is not always for the swift but for those that keep on running”. So Walk Good Belle Marché


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