Some folks have asked me to post my 2017 OCR Humanitarian Award speech I gave at the OCR World Championships online because it was a) tough to hear, or b) interesting and wanted to see it again, so here it is. There are many people and organizations I thanked at the beginning, but it was about a third of the speech, so I removed them because they were lengthy and sandwiched in between really bad jokes. So here is the speech, without the intro, in its entirety.
People have asked me what drives a person to be a humanitarian. I feel like humanitarianism is a bestowed title, not something a person can totally grasp about themselves. There are many possible drivers. I just know that my own personal pursuit of wisdom is my LOCOMotive.
Remember that phrase. I’ll come back to it later.
There are people who are simply born as humanitarians, and those who learn to become one. I was one of those people who needed to learn. My father passed away when I was young, and in coping with his death, I discovered philosophy. Some of the most ancient of philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Joe Perry, to the more modern day thinkers like Renee Descartes, John Locke, and Hunter McIntyre. During those years, i was introduced to a very simple law which has been the foundation for all of my beliefs: the Law of Conservation of Mass.
Everyone know the law? The Law of Conservation of Mass dictates that matter can neither be created, nor destroyed. But it has been shown that matter can evolve over billions of years to create something special. Give yourselves a round of applause.
If the Law is to be followed and believed, it stands to reason that the sum of humanity, and all things on this planet, living and dead, is “the Earth.” You see evidence of this Law in science and religion. Religious texts hinted at the law before it came into being. Genesis 3:19 states that “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
Through observation, I have formed the belief that the world is a complex quagmire any one of us can only partly understand, and that each one of us is a tiny part of the world’s collective soul. In short, we are more than the world’s children: we are the world.
Where am I going with this? For the first time in the Earth’s countless billion years of existence, it has created something so powerful, so limitless, it has endangered its own existence. That’s us. We are its savior, or its destroyer. We are its finest champion, or its worst DNF.
So… how do we become its finest champion, and positively impact the outcome for ourselves and the world?
We should spend our lives accumulating something that’s seldom acquired in Twitter’s 140 characters these days: wisdom.
When you find a person you fundamentally disagree with, you can either consider them an enemy, or as I do, a complementary person the world created for you so that you can expand your thinking. The LOCOM (law of conservation of mass) suggests that because you are part of a whole, complementary people and viewpoints need to exist. Understanding those opposing viewpoints bring us closer to that whole, the greater collective, the better wisdom.
Don’t believe me? When i see two top competitors like Ryan Atkins and Jon Albon learn from each other, or exchange friendly ideas, I smile. At the same time they drive each other to be better, they prove that fierce competition is not the same as mortal opposition. One gains you wisdom, the other blinds you to it.
Everything in this world has an equilibrium, light and dark, good and evil, cat memes and the Kardashians. And wisdom can be found in all elements on both sides. But there is very little to no wisdom in avarice and excessive greed. According to the LOCOM, to take more than you give leaves a fundamental deficit somewhere else in the world. As well, the LOCOM would suggest that the reverse is true; to give more than you take will eventually leave you empty handed and unwilling or unable to help. The Earth needs balance, and so do we.
For the people silently in their heads making this political, I’m not saying to think like a humanitarian means that you need to be a socialist. I’m one of the largest Ayn Rand fans you’ll find. But any system of economics is only as good as the motive of its people. Some of the greatest humanitarian and innovative acts have been conducted during the reign of capitalism. It shouldn’t matter what version of “-ism” you identify with if your pursuits are separated from finding wisdom.
Wisdom is the only thing that can help you when you are trying to leave the world a better place than you found it. Wisdom lengthens your life’s runway by offering you chances to make longer and more meaningful impact on younger generations. The more wisdom you have, the better you are at understanding problems at their root cause, the more chance you have to make a positive impact that will span generations.
So what has wisdom taught me? Love is the most difficult thing to earn and keep. Respect is a medal you can obtain, but it’s not a Finisher Medal. You constantly have to work to hold onto it. I am genuinely happy and invested in the success of people around me. I love seeing our OCR communities reach their fundraising goals. But I REALLY appreciate the small and heartfelt gestures that I see in this group of athletes and their families every day. Even at the age of 40, wisdom continues to add to me, and make me better as my body starts to go the other way.
Tomorrow, we stand on an international stage and represent our country, our beliefs, and how far we’ve come, individually and as a human race. We will empty our souls on the course, and we will fill them with the encouragement of our loved ones at the finish line. Then we’ll celebrate, we’ll go home. We’ll live our lives. We’ll do our jobs. We will slowly turn around the sun till the end of our days. And we will continue our pursuits of wisdom, the ONLY thing we can take and give back to which the law of conservation of mass doesn’t apply. May the pursuit of wisdom be your train of thought, your Platform 9 3/4s, your LOCOM. Motive.