Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Alan Page recently made an appearance at a virtual White Bear Lake Rotary Club meeting. The details of the event, shared by Rotarian Bob Timmons in the White Bear Press, refreshed my memory about a past speaking engagement by Page at a local high school that resonated with me and made a lasting impression.
A friend, who is an award winning documentary film maker, said that if you are still thinking about a film in the days and weeks after watching it for the first time, it was successful. I believe the same can be said for speeches and presentations.
One of the fundamental aspects about Alan Page’s visit that has stayed in my thoughts over time was his disarming candor. At the time, I remember thinking that the high school students in attendance were lucky to have an adult, especially someone with Page’s accomplishments, speak honestly and realistically to them about some of the challenges in life that we face. Specifically, he shared that he was overwhelmed and had to withdraw from law school in his first attempt. He regrouped, tried again and succeeded. Fully admitting his highly competitive nature, he also acknowledged learning important lessons from the losses he has experienced. I thought that this type of meaningful, personal disclosure was refreshing in contrast with most of the cultivated and superficial celebrity presentations we are currently exposed to via social and other media.
Another aspect of his presentation in 2014 that has stayed with me is the concept of character development and maintenance. He said that each of us has the obligation to build rather than diminish the character of ourselves and others, adding that the foundational element to character is trustworthiness and that being trustworthy ties all aspects of character together. I also found it revelatory when he said that our character is not static. It’s something that we have to continue to work on throughout our lives.
As shared by Rotarian Bob Timmons, during the Rotary Club meeting Page spoke about the life changing importance of the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education that ruled that the racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. He was only 8 years old at the time but said he had an intuitive sense that the ruling would change society for the better.
Mainly because I wasn’t born yet or was just a little kid when much of the landmark progress in civil rights occurred, I made the assumption that significant progress had been made and many of the issues of racial inequality in the United States were well on the way to being resolved. Some of the events that have unfolded over the past year have unfortunately shown otherwise. Throughout my life I’ve occasionally encountered people with racist points of view, but was under the impression they were in the distinct minority. The challenges we have faced and are still dealing with have revealed some stark societal divides that are far more dramatic and potentially dangerous than I ever imagined.
During a recent Minnesota Health Department update that thankfully had more good news than bad, I heard a health care official use the phrase “protecting progress” in reference to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. It might be an example of something hiding in plain sight, but I don’t recall hearing the phrase before and think along with the continuing efforts to manage COVID-19, it could also be applied to a variety of lengthy, ungoing challenges, including civil rights.
Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or email@example.com.