Words to Inspire: Neil Armstrong

The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident, you can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources.  What is not easily stolen from you without your cooperation is your principles and your values. They are your most precious possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man.  Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character. 

— Neil Armstrong, USC Commencement Address, May 13, 2005

Words to Inspire: Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

Words to Inspire: Oseola McCarty

If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of.

It’s heartwarming to know that good, selfless people still exist in our society. One such person was Oseola McCarty, who died at the age of 91. Her obituary in the New York Times stated that, in anticipation of her death, at age 87 in 1995, Miss McCarty donated $150,000 to a scholarship fund at the University of Southern Mississippi to help poor students. The truly amazing thing, however, was that she was far from a wealthy woman. In fact, she washed clothes for a living, and the $150,000 represented her entire life savings. The selflessness of her gift garnered her worldwide and national attention, and she received numerous awards, shook hands with President Bill Clinton, and was honored by the United Nations. Upon hearing of her donation, contributions began pouring into the scholarship find, eventually adding some $330,000 to the original gift of $150,000… Miss McCarty had this to say about her actions: “There’s a lot of talk about self-esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of. Feelings follow actions.”

Source: Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette’s Portfolio Manager’s Weekly, 7/26/2000

Words to Inspire: Robert Kennedy

Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest of walls of resistance.

Robert Kennedy

Words to Inspire: Miss Julia Coleman

When I was a young boy in Plains, Georgia, a beloved teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, introduced me to Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace. She interpreted that powerful narrative as a reminder that

the simple human attributes of goodness and truth can overcome great power.

She also taught us that

an individual is not swept along on a tide of inevitability but can influence even the greatest human events.

Jimmy Carter, from his Nobel Lecture given in Oslo, December 10, 2002

Words to Inspire: Christopher Evans

In college, during the summer months, I was employed as a forestry firefighter. On wildfires, working with hand tools like shovels, heavy rakes and axe-like hoes, we formed up in lines to cut firebreaks before the advancing fires. We were always told by out growling boss to “take a swipe, kid,” at the vegetation with your tools and leave the rest for the person behind you, When you looked back down the mountain at the end of our line of workers, you’d see a clear, clean line of firebreak. We learned that everyone doing a harmonious small act creates big effect. Many of us never lost the feeling that came with that understanding.

–Christopher J. Evans, Esq., Former Executive Director, Surfrider Foundation, Making Waves, August 2004