Finish the Task

October 29, 2002

At the 1968 Olympics a man named Bob Beamon set a long jump record that the world thought would never be broken.  At those games, a young American boxer named George Foremen won a gold medal and installed many Americans with pride.  But one athlete named John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania, a marathon runner, probably made the most memorable impression of those games.  Early in the running of the Olympic Marathon, Akhwari stumbled and fell, badly cutting his knee and dislocating the joint.  After receiving first aid he did what no one expected him to do; he rose and resumed the race.  Long after every other runner had finished, Akhwari limped into the near empty stadium.  When asked why he continued the race after he was so badly hurt and with no chance to win, he replied, "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race.  They sent me to finish."

One of the most difficult parts of life is accepting responsibility for finishing a task we start, particularly when the going gets tough and we see an easy way out.  But keep your promises when you make them, gentlemen, even the ones you make to yourself.  For a man who doesn't keep his word will not be respected and will not be trusted.  As you depart here this evening, ask yourself what kind of man do you want to be known and remembered as?

Good night, gentlemen.