'Saving a Life...Making A Difference'
By: Archie Wortham


Dr. Kinslow, platform guests, PTK members, ladies and gentlemen…Before I start, I want you to know you can blame Mr. Staas for the torture you are about to endure as he asked me to do this…again I might add. I have no idea why he asked me or why I accepted. I’m sure he could’ve found someone who knew more, spoke better, or was better looking. Well, 2 out of 3 maybe. After I’d accepted, I was told, “I forgot to ask, would you shorten your contribution to about 10 minutes? The reason is because we have other speakers who will want to fill some of the voids...”

Now Greg didn’t mention the “voids” part to me, until after I’d said yes. He’d heard giving me a time limit is something I’d respect. But believe me; something happens when people get the chance to speak their mind in public and I’ve been known to give so many pieces of my mind to people, people are beginning to wonder if I have any left. Besides…there are voids to fill.
Jesting aside, I’m honored to be here. Happy your chapter is working hard, continuing to grow. This is due to a lot of hard work Mr. Staas and Mrs. Kohls have done, and they are worthy of your thanks. [Applause]. This afternoon might be somewhat like your Yak ‘N Sack Meetings, where I’m told students and faculty gather to talk about their interests, swap the latest rumors, create new ones, and the part I like most, eat the comfort good of your choice. Don’t let this costume fool you. I’m here for the food, and have been promised refreshments afterwards.

Tonight I’ll do three things: I’ll address one of the more powerful influences in our world today: the Democratization of Information. I’ll talk about its Power; its Peril and its Promise. I’ll also address how it can help you make a difference, and lastly end with a brief story about friendship.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, Dr. Debbie Hamilton, and I talked about how some students were more successful than others; how some people with the same resources could build a life so different from the person they sat next to at school. Where did they get that power? From within, knowing that within them they had the ability to choose certain paths as they hunted for information; sought advice. They had the same opportunities as their peers but realized the power in information. You have to work to get it. Those that excel, those that achieve, those that are able to drive fancy cars, live in fancy houses have found a way to get information and that information gave them power. People helped them. Sometimes who you know is as important as what you know. There’s power in helping others. Have you helped anyone lately?

Now with power, comes peril. We live in perilous times today. Unemployment is high. Natural disasters happen: earthquakes in Haiti; hurricanes in New Orleans; Toyotas that won’t stop. Nothing in life is free. The more you excel, the more is expected. You make more money, you pay more taxes. You drive a fancy car, you pay more for gas. You live in a fancy house? You understand what I mean? You feel me? With power comes the perils of prosperity; with prosperity comes responsibility. ‘It is what it is. You may look at it as perilous, but look upon it as opportunity. Look at it as a choice to do something better with your life; make your neighborhood better; make your class better; make your life better. It’s scary. Once you get your dream, the question becomes ‘what are you going to do with it?’ Hide it? No! You fulfill a promise. You share that promise. You do what I tell my students. You go out and enlighten the world. You make a difference. Marianne Williamson in her book on miracles tells us: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” [PAUSE] Don’t forget that! It’s perilous not to fulfill your promise!

To fulfill that promise, get a plan to keep that promise!! To fulfill that promise, share your promise with a friend. They’ll keep you honest and on track to keep it. Nelson Mandela tells us that “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” I like to teach. As I teach, my students get to know me. They know I have a PhD; like to look like Henry VIII. I also tell them about my fallings. I didn’t always get the job I applied to get. On the way to getting my doctorate, I flunked my qualifying exams. But I didn’t stop. People helped me. I have the job of a lifetime right now…teaching something I love to teach. I love to talk, to “fill the voids.” I got my PhD, a dream I had, a promise I made. I got it because I didn’t quit. I saw a mountain I wanted to climb. I made a plan. Shared it. I climbed it. Do you have a plan? Have you shared it with anyone?

In ‘Murder on the Pier,’ a murder mystery, by Jere Myles, Jonathan Rose, the main character, talks about mountaintop experiences. Plan one!! Jon tells an audience like you to “remember how you got to the mountaintop. Enjoy the past…plan for the future,” he tells the group that “Some people reach the mountaintop and before they know it, they start looking for another climber instead of the one they started the climb with...Enjoy the view with the person who helped you get there.” Keep your promises especially to the people who helped you get powerful and escape peril.

Power, Peril, Promise. Now the story about making a difference; it was an email sent to me by a former student:

“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class. He was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.

“I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him...He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

“As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks.' They really should get lives.' He looked at me and said, 'Hey thanks!’ There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.

“As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to a private school. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

“Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!' He just laughed and handed me half the books.

“Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

“Graduation day, Kyle looked great; he was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. All the girls loved him and he had more dates than I had. Sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!' He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. 'Thanks,' he said.

“As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began 'Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends....I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the most powerful gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.'

“I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told about the first day we met; how he’d planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he’d cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. 'Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.’
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad look at me and smile that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth. Never did I realize what I’d done. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your actions.” Remember, who you are DOES make difference. Don’t forget that, or as I told one of my fellow colleagues, ‘when you stop improving your game, your game stops improving.’ Failure is not an option, particularly when you have friends like the person sitting next to you willing to help.
So there it is. Greg, I hope I filled the “voids.” WORD! Remember, the power, the peril, and the promise that comes with information. Information liberates. It allows you to help the world become better. As Gandhi tells us “You are the change you want to see in the world.” Make a difference.

Delivered to The Alpha Gamma Pi chapter
May 8, 2010 at the Rio Grande campus,
Austin Community College, Texas in the Main Theatre.