If you didn’t make it to Schneebeck Concert Hall to hear Coach Herman Boone speak on Monday, Feb. 7, I feel sorry for you.
Herman Boone is the coach who inspired Denzel Washington’s character in Remember the Titans, perhaps the greatest sports movie ever made. Coach Boone lived through more trials, tribulations, inequalities and bold-faced racism in a few years of his life than I hope you or I will ever have to face.
He has dedicated his own life to changing other people’s lives for the better. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., coached the first segregated football team in Virginia and has traveled around the world spreading his message of teamwork, respect and the importance of having “one heartbeat.”
Coach Boone sounds like a serious man, and he is, but one of the first things he said when he stepped on the stage was “A sense of humor is a sense of who we all should be…it eases the mind.”
Coach Boone continually wove the importance of humor into his words, both while presenting as well as during casual visits with football coaches and team members.
“The man is hilarious. His great sense of humor was a pleasant surprise,” junior football player Casey Coberly said.
Coach Boone encouraged all of us “young people” to look back on history and pull out the positives. He emphasized remembering the pioneers of the human rights movement for how they lived, not how they died.
Of Dr. King in particular, Coach Boone encouraged everyone, “not to remember Dr. King’s death, but his life; not what he could have done, or the sadness of losing him, but what he did and our fortune at having ever known a man such as him.”
Coach Boone has inspired countless people, from high school football teams to military operations, with his messages about acceptance and respect.
He guides people who want to make a difference in the world by outlining the prerequisites of change: courage, forethought, and the ability to get past narrow-mindedness in order to create the change you wish to see.
He tells people, “Don’t say anything you don’t believe, and don’t believe anything you’re not willing to stand up and say.”
Take a minute and imagine a world where people lived by that code and how refreshing it would be.
In Coach Boone’s mind, Remember the Titans was less about football than it was about a group of young people who accepted the souls of others despite their skin color.
In this statement lay one of Coach Boone’s central messages; people need to accept the soul of a person rather than reject them because of the color of their skin.
This acceptance will lead to increased respect, which for Coach Boone, is a universal right shared by all people. “A right is something you’re born with, a privilege is something you’re given and can be taken away–respect is a right.”
Coach Boone uses teamwork-which he defines as a group of people with one mission, one objective and, more than anything, one heartbeat–to teach about respect.
He coached during an era in America where he believes people felt they had the right to wake up angry every morning.
Before a trip to Gettysburg, his players wouldn’t sit next their teammates of the opposite race, wouldn’t even talk to each other. This type of disrespectful behavior wasn’t acceptable for a man who believes that “everyone on the face of this earth deserves to be respected.”
“The man definitely inspired greatness in his players and tries to do the same in everyone he meets. I think the biggest message he tried to convey is that all successful teams have one heartbeat,” Coberly said.
Personally, I know I will cherish all the wisdom imparted by Coach Herman Boone.
One quote in particular stood out from the rest, however. He looked at everyone in the audience-white, black, young, old, students, soldiers and everyone in between-and told us, “Don’t let anyone make you be what they want you to be, because then they have the right to criticize you.”
He grabbed me with that quote and made me think about why I do the things I do: am I doing them for me or to fulfill someone else’s expectations?
I think that being true to yourself is not only a way to avoid criticism, but it also leads to a greater sense of happiness wherever life takes you.
I’d never really stepped back and thought about how or what is making me what I am, so for that I thank Coach Boone, and for everyone who missed out on this opportunity I hope I’ve given you a glimpse of a man who only says what he believes and only believes what he is willing to stand up and say.