'Eye on the Prize,' PTK Speech at Schreiner U
By: Archie Wortham, PhD

“An old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: “Blind... please help.”

No one was giving him any money. An advertising writer walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and that many people passed by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.
The advertising writer took a thick marker from his pocket, turned the cardboard sheet over, and rewrote the sign, then went on his way.

Immediately, people began putting money into the tin cup.

After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said. “It says,” said the stranger, “it’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.”

Good morning, I’m glad I can see you. It is a beautiful day! I’m so happy to be here. Thank you so much for that introduction. I’m humbled and grateful to have an opportunity to speak on something I’m extremely passionate about--education.
Thank you Dr. Kohls for inviting me. Dr. Kohls, where are you? Yes, Mary told me I can talk as long as I want. I’ve been married for 28 years to the same woman. Do you know the last time I had an opportunity like this…to give an opinion that was mine?

You heard the saying… ’Let ‘er rip?’ Finally I have an opportunity to share them!! Seriously though, I’ll only bore you for about 15 minutes. I’m sorry if I gave anyone a heart attack. “EYE ON THE PRIZE,” that’s what I’ll talk about today. I’ll address three things: power, peril and promise.

Education gives one power, so I’m going to talk about this school--Schreiner University. Peril! I’m going to talk about P M S. I’ll share three stories that exemplify a life involving the physical, mental and spiritual parts of our lives, and then, the third thing I’d do is end with a story as I focus on Promise. Earlier I began with a story about a blind man. What I want you to get from that is: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Repeat that “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” GOOD!!!

That’s so important in the world of change. Unemployment is at an all-time high, people spend more for water than they do for gas. We have elected officials in Congress more concerned about taking their clothes off than putting clothes on their constituents. The thing I want to resonate today is that you are part of the future. You are the change you want to see in the world, and I challenge you to step up to the plate! You are responsible for writing a history others will read about. I want you to realize and appreciate how beautiful today is; starting with being here at this great university.

I googled Schreiner University. I wanted to know about their mission, their vision and what they value. POWER!! Schreiner is a liberal arts institution committed to educating students holistically. Its mission is to provide a personalized, integrated education that prepares students for meaningful work in a changing global society.

Their vision? Always hold student success as its first priority by equipping students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to achieve, excel, and lead.
What do they at Schreiner value? You! That’s what they value. Schreiner holds sacred the Christian convictions that each student is valuable and unique and strive to empower every student to grow physically, intellectually, and spiritually. They value that higher education is instrumental in developing thoughtful, productive, and ethical citizens. That rocks! You feel me? My bad! Are you down with that? It is what it is! The university wants the identity of “Learning by Heart.” Now that I understand. That to me means once I have the heart of it, I’ve got it, and you can’t take it away from me—like character. Former Congressman J. C. Watts defines character as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” People will constantly look at you, and what you do makes an impact! Like in a book I often quote for my students, it’s by Jere Myles, "Murder Behind Closed Doors."

One of the principal characters tells the mother of an estranged daughter: “A piece of paper, however civilized cannot decide how we feel. Our feeling toward one another isn’t something you can legislate.” That’s learning from the heart! He goes on… “Someday there may be an act of Congress or chambered decision that will get us to a place where people see people as people. Change will happen. It’s inevitable!!”

Does that make sense to you? Do you understand what your education means? Education gives you POWER!!! Getting your education is just part of the journey. Finish it! Learn that by heart! Steve Covey tells us to “begin with the end in mind.’ Keep your ‘eye on the prize.’ That’s how I got my PhD, even though I flunked my qualifying exams. My college professor told me, “Keep your ‘eye on the prize.’ She encouraged me, telling me “Not to quit!” I didn’t, and neither should you!
Now that’s about Schreiner. Now let’s talk about PMS, a perilous subject sometimes. Here’s something to learn by heart. It involves understanding a new concept of PMS.

View your life as an equilateral triangle, composed of three connected sides: P.M.S…not something that happens once a month, but happens continuously throughout your life. It’s the physical, mental and spiritual part of your existence. I have three stories that personify these elements. You ever heard that, adversity builds character?

Well “In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and subjects came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along, carrying a load of vegetables.
“Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.

“After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.” Eye on the Prize! Think what you could do…what boulder could you remove…? You could smile at your teachers, even if they are having a bad day…it might not make you feel better, but it could make them feel better. LOL. I’m not too old for this either. And one day…one of my students told me…after I was sharing my ‘bad’ day, “you need a hug.” And you know what? I let him hug me. Now that might be TMI, but I felt better because someone did something. It may not be a pot of gold, but doing things, changes things. Repeat that “doing things changes things.” Eye on the Prize!

Now let’s talk about the mental part of PMS, our attitude. It can get in the way sometime. This story involves a brother and his sister.

“Many years ago, when a friend of mine worked as a volunteer at a hospital, he got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Yes, I'll do it, if it will save Liz.’

“As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.
“He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ‘Will I start to die right away?’

“Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.”

Sometimes, attitude is everything. Sometimes it’s all we have; be careful how you use it, when you use it, and why. The person sitting next to you…learn their name. Promise to call them to wish them a good day. That’s easy and something you can do to change the world. Keep your ‘eye on the prize!’

Now everyone knows what‘s next. Spirituality…that to me has to do with service… giving back; realizing as Newton, described in his third law of motion, everything has an equal and opposite reaction. When I think of spirituality I elevate it above religion.

Pierre Chardin tells us ‘we are not human beings on a spiritual journey but rather spiritual beings on a human journey.’ Part of that journey involves not only realizing we are here to serve, but also to validate others for their service. Today, you are being validated not only for what you have accomplished, but for what you are going to accomplish. Never forget the importance of your education and achieving your degree. Your degree is your prize!

Now the last PMS story: “In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and counted the coins in it. "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he asked. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy counted his coins again. "I’ll have the plain ice cream," he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't afford the sundae, because he needed enough left to leave her a tip.”

Always remember those who serve! Education is the prize; keep your eye on it.

Now before I share my last story, I want you to realize the power education gives you. I want you to also understand the peril with which you use that power as you see your life as an equilateral triangle. The equilateral triangle is the strongest of all triangles. You allow either part of that triangle to get out of synch and your life won’t be as solid. Remember PMS.

Now the PROMISE! The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we all want. Eye on the prize, the end of my speech! I have something personal to ask each of you. Pay close attention…“Have you met the love of your life? Your soul mate?” Don’t answer that, because I don’t’ think any of your BFFs, Facebook ‘planking’ buddies or Friends With Benefits fit the bill. So let me tell you the final story about a young man, we’ll call him Jon and young girl, we’ll call her Mary.

“Jon and Mary grew up together; dated through high school and they both went to college. They decided the first two years they’d go to different colleges, to give each other room to think. But after a year, they transferred to the same college. After they graduated, they got married.

“Both became teachers. They worked a few years, then decided to have a baby and were blessed with a lovely little girl.

“A few years later, Jon got a new job. They bought a house, and decided to have another child. But something was wrong. The wife couldn’t get pregnant, so she went to see her doctor, the one who had delivered their first child. It was the summer before their daughter was going to enroll in kindergarten.

“Her husband was away on a trip when Mary got the news. When he came home, she told him. She had cancer. By the time summer was over, Mary was dead.

“Having lost the love of his life, the husband was devastated. But he still had a little girl, he had to take care of, watch over. When school started, he was there, watching her, the image of her mom.

“Halloween came. It was the first time he’d go ‘trick or treating,’ with his little girl without his wife. He put on a brave front, but inside he cried every day. Shortly before Thanksgiving, Jon lost his job.

“And then one night he was sitting at the kitchen table; looking at all the bills, wondering how he was going to manage, deciding what bills he would choose not to pay so his daughter would have a wonderful Christmas. He was about to cry when his daughter came into the room.

“It was about her bedtime, but she had a box that was wrapped only the way a five-year-old could wrap.

“Daddy, I have something for you,” she said.

“He looked up and was immediately irritated. ‘What have you done? That’s expensive wrapping paper, and you’ve made a mess of it.’ Unmoved, love in her eyes that saw the deep hurt in his, she held it out for him and said, “But daddy…it’s for you.”

“He took a deep breath . Did what any good dad would do—took the box. She stood there waiting, eyes sparkling, proud of what she’d done.

“He took his time and tried to unwrap it as best he could without tearing the paper. He opened the box, looked inside and to his surprise—there was nothing there.

“He went ballistic and yelled, ‘you stupid little girl! Don’t you know when you give someone a present, there should be something inside?!’

“She burst into tears, and said, ‘but daddy, I filled it with kisses for you!’

“He reached out, grabbed his little girl, hugged her tightly as he’d once hugged her mom, and they cried together.

“But the story doesn’t end there. Christmas came. They celebrated. He soon found another job as a teacher.

“His daughter grew up, went to college, got married; moved away. He never married again. But he saved that box.

“And anytime he was feeling lonely, unloved, or needed a hug, he would go to the bedroom, reach under the bed, get that box, open it, and take out one of those kisses.”

You see, it’s all in how you package things. A philosopher tells us ‘a fool knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.” Think of your education as kisses in a box. Value it. It’s the prize that will caress you forever, and validate you because you earned it. It’s something no one can take away.

I promise you that!!! Sometimes it takes a blind person to make us see what’s in front of us, and believe me, IT IS A BEAUTIFUL DAY! And it doesn’t cost you anything to appreciate it.

Okay. I think we’re done! I’ve told you about Schreiner University, provided you stories that will hopefully empower you to assess your outlook on life: physically, mentally, and spiritually; helped you realize people give us boxes filled with promises that can caress, calm and give us the courage to fulfill our mission in life. Consider getting your education a big part of it.

And I leave you with this “LET NO ONE LIMIT YOU! As Max Erhmann wrote, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars! You have a right to be here!” Keep your EYE ON THE PRIZE!!!
Congratulations and God Bless!