by Craig Thompson|
Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. At the age of 4 she developed both double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her paralyzed in her left leg. She had to walk with the assistance of a metal brace, and walked with a pronounced limp. At the age of nine, she told her mother that she wanted to walk without the braces. Her mother agreed, and Wilma took of the braces which she had worn for years. By the age of thirteen, she began to develop a steady walk, and decided that walking was not enough for her - she wanted to run!!
She entered a race at the age of 13, and finished last.
Although she entered several races over the next few years, she finished last in all of them. Several people told her that she should quit - that she should be content with walking without the aid of braces. Her response: I want to run! She told them that they might not believe she could do it, but she KNEW she could. She informed them that they may not have believed in her, but she believed in herself. In fact, she was often quoted as saying, "I'm in my prime. There's no goal too far, no mountain too high."
She finally won a race. And another. And another. She soon began winning races which no one believed she could even finish because of their difficulty. The rest is well-known: she continued running and in 1960 became the first American woman of any color to win THREE Gold Medals in one Olympics! Wilma the little girl was told that she would never walk - Wilma Rudolph the woman defied the odds and ran herself into the history books.
Our lives are precious, and we have the capacity to change ourselves and our environments. It begins with a change in attitude, and a commitment to refusing to quit when the odds are stacked against us. Malcolm X once stated very eloquently: "what should Black folks, of all people, care about odds?"
To establish a foundation for our families, our neighborhoods and our communities, it is vital that we recognize the examples of individuals like Wilma Rudolph. Too many of us give up too early, and let the thoughts, opinions and issues of other people determine our agenda. When you refuse to quit, you let the doubters know that they have little, if any, control over you and your decisions. When you refuse to quit, you inform those who are watching you that they can do it as well. When you refuse to quit, you establish a pattern of success from which you can draw at various points in your life.
During this time of national tragedy and confusion, it is critical that we remain focused, and stay true to our goals. As the race of life continues to present us with various challenges and obstacles, remember the strong example of Wilma Rudolph, and refuse to quit!!
Craig Thompson is an attorney, lecturer, writer and host of weekly radio and television shows. At age 32, Craig is a highly sought after public speaker, addressing topics such as leadership, goal setting and self-esteem. He has spoken across the country at churches, schools, colleges and to civic organizations. He can be reached at email@example.com