Honoring athletes

Sri Chinmoy: Thank you. Please tell me why it is that Americans do not honour their heroes while they are alive. Americans admire heroes, but why do they not admire them much while they are alive? It was understandable that Hitler did not honour Jesse Owens or even shake hands with him. The world knows Hitler's nature. But when Jesse Owens came back to America, how is it that he did not get due honour? When first he came to New York, the Mayor did not see him and did not give him due honour. Was it just because he was black or was it something else?

Mr. Jordan: I don't know. They did give him a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York, and he was honoured in his hometown. But they probably didn't do as much as they should have done. I'm only one person, and I don't know why. I would love to see each person who does something worthy be given tribute commensurate with his accomplishment. Sometimes what you are speaks louder than tributes or words, and I, like you, have often wondered why they wait until someone is dead before he's honoured. I was just given the honour of being inducted into the Hall of Fame here recently, and someone said, "Well, how do you feel?" I said two things: "I'm thrilled, but more than that I'm happy to have it happen while I am alive and can enjoy it and my family and friends can enjoy it with me." I think that is what we all talk about. You don't really get awards for yourself. Awards are given to you, but so many other people are important and so many other people have played a part in it that most of the fun is that you can share it. And when you are gone, you can't share it. So my question is the same as yours: "Why do they wait?"

Sri Chinmoy: In Finland they do it. Paavo Nurmi was honoured while he was alive. A statue of him was made, which I saw at the Helsinki stadium. Lasse Viren has also been honoured while he is alive; I saw a statue of him in a museum. They honour their living heroes.

Mr. Jordan: Right. I admire Paavo Nurmi greatly. In fact, I spoke with him at great length when I was in Finland in 1952. I went to his tie shop and we spent time in the back room discussing tours he had made in America prior to his retirement. He ran the torch into the stadium in 1952. I looked out there and saw those beautiful, powerful legs although he was in his sixties. Absolutely inspiring I thought to myself, "Isn't that a beautiful thing. Here he is in his own country, but people from all over the world are witnessing this and are just thrilled to death." That's an honour that few people get, but it's an honour well deserved and an honour that I think would strike the feeling of all people all over the world. And I, like you, feel that while we are here we should smell the fragrance in the air and see the beauty in the flowers, in the scenery, the trees, the lakes, the mountains, the deserts — drink in the beauties and enjoy them. And what you are able to do, do as well as you can and enjoy doing it. I guess that is why you do what you do and why I do what I do — because we feel like expressing what we feel. Rather than just sitting on it and thinking about it, share it and enjoy it. That's life. And as long as I'm here, I hope I can be vital. Vitality isn't for youth only. Vitality is for everyone, and we should all take part in it and enjoy it.

Sri Chinmoy: There is an inexhaustible supply of energy. If we can be open to it, if we can be receptive, that energy is always at our disposal.

Mr. Jordan: That's so true. When you quit accepting new energy from other sources, other people, you are ready to be put away.