I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Courage is grace under pressure.
I am not sure how many of you know Stuart Scott, the ESPN announcer who died at age 49 this past Sunday, after a seven year battle with cancer. His speech last July at the ESPY awards when he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance will remain as a lasting gift. Here are some excerpts:
Every day I am reminded that our life’s journey is really about the people who touch us. When I first heard that I was going to be honored with this reward, the very first thing that I did was, I was speechless, briefly. I’ve presented this award before. I mean, I’ve watched in awe as Kay Yow and Eric LeGrand and all these other great people [have] graced this stage and although intellectually, I get it. I’m a public figure, I have a public job, I’m battling cancer, hopefully I’m inspiring – at my gut level, I really didn’t think that I belonged with those great people. But I listened to what Jim Valvano said 21 years ago. The most poignant seven words ever uttered in any speech anywhere. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”. Those great people didn’t. Coach Valvano didn’t. So, to be honored with this, I now have a responsibility to also not ever give up.
I’m not special. I just listened to what the man said. I listened to all that he said, everything that he asked of us. And that’s to build the V Foundation. And – and let me tell you, man, it works. I’m talking tangible benefits. You saw me in that clinical trial. Now, here’s a thing about that. Coach Valvano’s words 21 years ago helping me and thousands of people like me, right now, direct benefits, that’s why all of this, why we’re here tonight, that’s why it’s so important. I also realized something else recently. You heard me kind of allude to it in the piece. I said “I’m not losing. I’m still here, I’m fighting. I’m not losing.” But I’ve gotta amend that. When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.
So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you. That’s also very, very important. I can’t do this “don’t give up” thing all by myself. I’ve got thousands of people on Twitter and on the streets who encourage me. I’ve got these amazingly wonderful people at ESPN. I’ve got corporate executives, my bosses, this is true – who would text message me. They said “hey, I heard you had chemotherapy today, you want me to stop by on the way home from work and pick you up something to eat and bring it to you?” Seriously? Who does that? Whose boss does that? My bosses do that. But even with all that the fight is still much more difficult than I even realized.
What you didn’t see in the piece is what’s gone on probably the last ten days. I just got out of the hospital this past Friday. Seven day stay. Man, I crashed. I had liver complications. I had kidney failure. I had four surgeries in a span of seven days. I had tubes and wires running in and out of every part of my body. And guys, when I say every part of my body: every part of my body. As of Sunday, I didn’t even know if I’d make it here. I couldn’t fight. [applause] But doctors and nurses could. The people that I love and my friends and family, they could fight. My girlfriend, who slept on a very uncomfortable hospital cot by my side every night, she could fight. The people that I love did last week what they always do. They visited, they talked to me, they listened to me, they sat silent sometimes, they loved me. And that’s another one of the components of the V Foundation. This whole fight, this journey thing, is not a solo venture. This is something that requires support.
I have been listening and reading the commentary about his passing this week. One can learn so much about a character during this period of public reflection and appreciation. The main themes of this tributes were consistent: He was a passionate guy. He was a genuine man. He was the same person on the screen as he was in real life.
It is so easy to focus on quantity over quality. We do it all the time, on issues both large and small. But we must remember that a short life is not a diminished life. To live with kindness, to fight good fights courageously, to be a positive force in your little corner of the world, is to touch the infinite.
I put this picture and words of Stuart up on this website as a tribute. But my efforts are not meant to merely preserve these words, but to provide them another chamber for reverberation, to help anoint them as sacred words. In the gospels of modern life, this is a beautiful passage.
When we read these words, does Stuart not live on? If we give our lives to being good people, to serving our role with passion and genuine effort - do we not become what we serve? Do we not move past ourselves?
We are what we serve. Stuart served passion, genuine-ness and courage. I will carry you with me brother and if I need a little more inspiration to live a courageous life, I will look to you. Thank you. And as we both like to say: Boo Yah.