January 30, 1948: Mohandas Gandhi killed by a Hindu fanatic
The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere…Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more—Jawaharlal Nehru.
Saddened by the death of the Mahatma, Nehru spoke those words 65 years ago. Since then, the inspiration drawn by leaders as diverse at Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi have proven Nehru wrong. The resilience shown by such fighters for freedom and their commitment to non-violent action proves that the light continues.
While Gandhi has been almost universally revered, he considered himself quite an ordinary person. In his autobiography, he describes himself as buffeted by unrestrained carnality. Recent works have cast doubts on other aspects of his moral character. Nonetheless, he remains an exemplar of the finest in the human spirit because of his unremitting struggle to reform himself so that he might reform the world. He confronted racism in South Africa. He confronted the injustices of British colonialism in India and ultimately gave his life in a confrontation with sectarianism in independent India.
He shows that through the very struggle for self-sufficiency one can reform ourselves and by doing so lead us to become an inextinguishable light in the world. On this day 65 years ago Gandhi lost his life but his light was preserved for the world.
It’s not easy for me to talk about the mistake I’ve made. But as I thought about what I’d like to do with my life, I felt that people might be able to learn from my mistakes. I decided I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others—to help people get on the right track so that they can avoid adversity caused by bad choices. (p 25)
Before there was Lance…
Before there was Lance Armstrong, there was Marion Jones. One might argue whether seven Tours de France are more impressive than five track and field medals in a single Olympics. Beyond doubt however is the fact that joining the fast-growing population of incarcerated women represents a striking fall from grace. On the Right Track is the story of her recovery and her work to re-enter competitive sports as a WNBA player. Armstrong may suffer the embarrassment of the apology tour along with Ben Johnson and Alex Rodriguez (barely) but few among the legion of former drug cheats have endured the indignity of a full body pat down. Well, outside of airports at least.
Sorry for lying? Yes. Cheating? Ummm…
Jones got a relatively tough deal because she was found to lie under oath. She’s at pains to accept responsibility for lying and its consequences. She uses some variant of the word ‘lie’ at least at least 48 times. She almost always does this in reference to herself but it is hard to ignore that she outsources responsibility for her actual cheating. Excepting of course, those also disgraced cheaters that she was quite involved with that are barely mentioned in connection with doping—ex-husband C.J. Hunter and ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery who have both received substantial bans for doping. Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are. Getting mixed up with Ben Johnson’s coach Charlie Francis was another suspect move unmentioned in her précis of her track career.
Lessons for all of us
If Jones is quiet about her responsibility for her own doping, she screams out the lessons that all of us can take from her experience beginning with her decision to email family and friends acknowledging that she lied. Her words and deeds model many of the key factors for personal resilience:
- A Deep faith in God:The Word of God renewed my spirit and opened the eyes and hearts of eight women who decided that their future was more important than their past(p. 69)
- A Commitment to helping others:When we help others, we take the focus off ourselves (p. 88)
- A Deep commitment to those closest to you:Oba and I realize we are our children’s biggest moral influence (p.144)
- A Deep engagement in your own life:I began to pick up the pieces and set out to explore what could be made of what was left (p. 54)
- A Sense of mission:I am polishing my arguments for prison reform. Until 2008, I was just like everybody else when it came to prisons…Now I know a lot more (p. 209)
Even if we can’t all manage to run the 100m in 10.75s (with or without the help of steroids) we certainly all have had our ups and downs and can learn a thing or four from Jones’ On the Right Track.If we do, I suspect she will hold that her suffering was not for nought.
P.S. Oba refers to Obadele Thompson, Jones’ husband who once ran the fastest 100m ever, a wind-aided 9.69