Determination

Category Archives: Determination

The end of slavery

At the close of the eighteenth century the slave trade was a thriving and very big business. Prominent families held slaves and interests in the slave business, a vast swathe of people depended on slavery for their livelihoods, and public opinion was undisturbed by it. When Clarkson threw in his lot with a small group of Quakers in opposition to the trade the odds of success were seemingly impossible.

On May 22, 1787 Clarkson and about a dozen others met in the James Phillip Bookstore for the first official meeting of the Committee of the Slave Trade. They devised a strategy to gather intelligence on the trade, expose it’s inhumanity via pamphlets, posters and public lectures, and build momentum for a banning of the British slave trade. Clarkson became their only full time anti slavery campaigner. He travelled tirelessly throughout England seeking to gather intelligence on the slave trade and to draw people’s attention to its cruelty and inhumanity.

The task was incredibly difficult. Few of those involved in the slavery business would talk to him; he received death threats, and at least one attempt on his life; many mocked him. In that first year he noted

I began now to tremble, for the first time, at the arduous task I had undertaken, of attempting to subvert one of the branches of the commerce of the great place which was then before me…. I questioned whether I should even get out of it alive.

Yet the tide of opinion began to turn. Petitions containing thousands of names started to find their way to Parliament. More people joined themselves to the cause, including the potter Josiah Wedgewood, who crafted a relief of a kneeling slave with the words “Am I not a man and a brother?” that became a popular and influential adornment, and parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who championed the cause in Parliament. Hundreds of thousands stopped using sugar, the major slave produced good in England, and slave-free sugar started appearing. The autobiography of freed slave Olauda Equiano became a best seller and many heard him speak.

Within five years of that first meeting at the James Phillip bookstore public opinion had turned against the slave trade. Parliament however would take longer to conquer. William Wilberforce was the spearhead of the parliamentary campaign.

So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition

Like Clarkson, Wilberforce met with fierce opposition and derision. Admiral Horatio Nelson for example, condemned “the damnable doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies”. He also found the support of colleagues such as the Prime Minister, William Pitt.

Bills against the trade were moved in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805, all without success, until on February 27, 1807 a bill for the abolition of the slave trade passed the House by a vote of 283 to 16.

The anti slavery activists had assumed that once the shipping of slaves was outlawed slavery would collapse. This assumption proved naive. While no more slaves were shipped, slaves continued to be held on British owned plantations in the West Indies and their children enslaved. This set off continued campaigning. A mass uprising of slaves in 1831 signalled the oppression of slaves was no longer sustainable, and in 1833 the Emancipation Act finally saw the end of British slavery.

It took fifty six years, but who’d have thought that from that meeting of a dozen people in the James Phillip Bookstore on May 22, 1787, armed with nothing but their determination and their voices, would issue such a result?

One small voice can start a revolution

In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of the Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. This was not enough to deter him from standing for the presidency.

On the day of the election Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results. The state-run television station reported “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”

In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them. “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”

The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.

Philip Yancey writes

“When I heard the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the church. You see we as a church do not control the big screen. (When we do, we usually mess it up.) Go to any magazine rack or turn on the television and you see a consistent message. What matters is how beautiful you are, how much money or power you have. Similarly, though the world includes many poor people, they rarely make the magazine covers or the news shows. Instead we focus on the superrich, names like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.… Our society is hardly unique. Throughout history nations have always glorified winners, not losers. Then, like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, Don’t believe the big screen – they’re lying. It’s the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they’re on top end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they’re on the bottom end up on the top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

Source: Philip Yancey, What Good Is God, pages 184-186

We’ll Get Bigger

George Mallory was the famed mountain climber who may have been the first person ever to reach the top of Mount Everest. In the early 1920’s he led a number of attempts to scale the mountain, eventually being killed in the third attempt in 1924. Before that last and fatal attempt he had said “I can’t see myself coming down defeated.”

Mallory was an extraordinary climber, and nothing would force him to give up. His body was found in 1999, well preserved by the snow and ice, 27,000 feet up the mountain, just 2000 feet from the peak. Give up he did not. His body was found face down on a rocky slope, head toward the summit. His arms were extended high over his head. His toes were pointed into the mountain; his fingers dug into the loose rock, refusing to let go even as he drew his last breath. A short length of cotton rope – broken – was looped around his waist.

When those who had set up camp for Mallory further down the mountain returned to England a banquet was held for them. A huge picture of Mt Everest stood behind the banquet table. It is said that the leader of the group stood to be applauded, and with tears streaming down his face, turned and looked at the picture. “I speak to you, Mt Everest, in the name of all brave men living and those yet unborn” he said. “Mt Everest, you defeated us once; you defeated us twice; you defeated us three times. But Mt Everest, we shall someday defeat you, because you can’t get any bigger but we can.”

In 1953 two climbers, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzig Norgay, reached the top.

 

Source: Information reported in Seattle Times (Jan 16, 2000) and Illustrations Unlimited

They Sent Me to Finish

The Olympic Games, Mexico, 1968. The marathon is the final event on the program. The Olympic stadium is packed and there is excitement as the first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, enters the stadium. The crowd erupts as he crosses the finish line.

Way back in the field is another runner, John Stephen Akwhari of Tanzania. He has been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head is throbbing, his muscles are aching and he falls to the ground. He has serious leg injuries and officials want him to retire, but he refuses. With his knee bandaged Akwhari picks himself up and hobbles the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner has finished Akwhari enters the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd have gone home. Akwhari moves around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapses over the finish line.

It is one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akwhari says, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Source: reported on Sydney 2000 Olympics website

Sylvester Stallone’s Amazing Story

Sylvester Stallone shot to fame in the movie Rocky. But Stallone’s own story is as inspiring as that of the character he plays. His slurred speech and snarling look are the result of a facial nerve that was severed during his birth and his early years were spent bouncing between foster families in the infamous Hells Kitchen area. An outcast at school thanks to his facial deformities, he was sent to a high school for troubled kids and voted “most likely to end up in the electric chair”.

After school Stallone went to beauty college, but left to turn his attention to acting. He didn’t meet with much success. He worked at a deli  throughout most of his twenties and before Rocky made him a star was so broke that he was forced to sell his dog, to which was so attached he was in tears, for $25, to sell his wife’s jewelry and ended up living in a bus shelter.

His break came when he went to a boxing match in which an unknown underdog Chuck Wepner took the world champion Muhammed Ali to 15 rounds. Stallone went home and in three days wrote the first draft of Rocky. When he started hawking it around to the studios there was immediate interest. They saw the script as a great vehicle for a big star – names such as Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds were thrown around – and offered to buy the script. But Stallone wasn’t selling, not unless he was given the lead. The studios kept offering more, on the condition Stallone didn’t act in the movie. Each time Stallone refused, even when $325,000 was put on the table, the highest amount ever offered for a script. Despite having just $106 in the bank Stallone wouldn’t give up.

“I knew that if I took the money I’d regret it for the rest of my life,” said Stallone. “And the picture was about taking that golden shot when you finally get it.”

The studio eventually gave in, buying the script for $35,000, with Stallone  to work as a writer without a fee and as an actor for award wages. Stallone got the lead role and the movie was reduced to low budget production.

The rest is history. Rocky was a massive hit, won an Oscar for best picture and Stallone became a star.

 

Sources: boxing-mobthly.com, chicagonow.com, imdb.com, nndb.com

Churchill’s Commencement Address

Sir Winston Churchill took three years getting through eighth grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic that years later Oxford University asked him to address its commencement exercises.

He arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane and a top hat accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause. With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting audience. Authority rang in Churchill’s voice as he shouted, “Never give up!”

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated: “Never give up!” His words thundered in their ears. There was a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement address was finished.

You Can’t?

History abounds with tales of experts who were convinced that the ideas, plans, and projects of others could never be achieved. However, accomplishment came to those who said, “I can make it happen.”

The Italian sculptor Agostino d’Antonio worked diligently on a large piece of marble. Unable to produce his desired masterpiece, he lamented, “I can do nothing with it.” Other sculptors also worked this difficult piece of marble, but to no avail. Michelangelo discovered the stone and visualized the possibilities in it. His “I-can-make-it-happen” attitude resulted in one of the world’s masterpieces – David.

The experts of Spain concluded that Columbus’s plans to discover a new and shorter route to the West Indies was virtually impossible. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand ignored the report of the experts. “I can make it happen,” Columbus persisted. And he did. Everyone knew the world was flat, but not Columbus. The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria, along with Columbus and his small band of followers, sailed to “impossible” new lands and thriving resources.

Even the great Thomas Alva Edison discouraged his friend, Henry Ford, from pursuing his fledgling idea of a motorcar. Convinced of the worthlessness of the idea, Edison invited Ford to come and work for him. Ford remained committed and tirelessly pursued his dream. Although his first attempt resulted in a vehicle without reverse gear, Henry Ford knew he could make it happen. And, of course, he did.

“Forget it,” the experts advised Madame Curie. They agreed radium was a scientifically impossible idea. However, Marie Curie insisted, “I can make it happen.”

Let’s not forget our friends Orville and Wilbur Wright. Journalists, friends, armed forces specialists, and even their father laughed at the idea of an airplane. “What a silly and insane way to spend money. Leave flying to the birds,” they jeered. “Sorry,” the Wright brothers responded. “We have a dream, and we can make it happen.” As a result, a place called Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, became the setting for the launching of their “ridiculous” idea.

Finally, as you read these accounts under the magnificent lighting of your environment, consider the plight of Benjamin Franklin. He was admonished to stop the foolish experimenting with lighting. What an absurdity and waste of time! Why, nothing could outdo the fabulous oil lamp. Thank goodness Franklin knew he could make it happen.

Source: Unknown.

Success Don’t Come Easy

It’s often easy to look at “successful” people and think that it’s all come easily to them. In many cases this is not what happened.  Colonel Sanders went to more than 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found an interested buyer. Thomas Edison tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light.

The original business plan for what was to become Federal Express was given a failing grade on Fred Smith’s college exam. And, in the early days, their employees would cash their pay checks at retail stores, rather than banks. This meant it would take longer for the money to clear, thereby giving Fed Ex more time to cover their payroll.

Sylvester Stallone had been turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600 before he found a company that would produce Rocky. The rest is history!

The poet Robert Forst had his first poetry submissions to The Atlantic Monthly returned unwanted.

Ray Kroc, the late founder of McDonalds, knew this too. “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence” he once said. “Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent. Genius will not. Un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and love are omnipotent.”

 

Derek Redmond Finishes at the Olympics

It was the summer Olympics of 1992. It was the quarter finals of the 400 metre sprint. British athlete Derek Redmond was one of the favourites for the gold medal. A lifetime of training had brought him to this moment. The starters gun fired and the athletes burst out of the blocks.

Halfway through the race Derek Redmond was leading. Then disaster struck. His hamstring went and he collapsed on the track. The agony on his tear streaked face was both physical and mental. It was a crushing blow.

Medical attendants ran to assist him. Derek waved them away. He came to race and he was going to finish. He got to his feet and started hobbling down the track.

The crowd was mesmerised. Officials didn’t know what to do. And then an older man ran onto the track. He brushed off officials who tried to stop him. He ran up beside Derek and placed his arms around him.

The man was Derek Redmond’s father, Jim.

“You don’t have to do this son” Jim said.

“Yes I do” Derek replied.

“Then we’ll finish this race together” came the response from Derek’s father.

Arm in arm, with agony on Derek’s face, tears on his father’s, Derek and Jim continued down the track. Derek buried his face in his father’s shoulder. His father’s strong shoulders carried his son physically and emotionally. Jim waved away officials who tried to stop them.

Finally, accompanied by a now roaring crowd, standing on their feet and applauding, Derek Redmond crossed the line. It became the defining moment of the Barcelona Olympics.

Derek Redmond Finishes the Race. A Video about Determination and Love

Derek Redmond was favoured to medal in the 400m sprint at the 1092 Olympics. When he tore a hamstring halfway through the race his dream died. But his determination to finish the race, with his father by his side, became the defining moment of the Games. A beautiful story of persevering to finish the race and of a father’s heart.

Olympian Derek Redmond from rob kohn on Vimeo.