Friday, February 8th, 2019
National Prayer Breakfast:
My book, ‘American Sunshine: Rays of Hope and Opportunity,’ is really a book about faith. Faith and the power of belief. Believing in the full potential of America. Believing that if we can truly get past the bitterness and divisiveness we find in our politics today, we can create an inspiring future. Focusing on our founding beliefs – and creating a positive, optimistic vision for what America can be. What we can achieve in our towns and communities. What we can achieve as individuals – if we simply have faith.
Well, this past week I had the opportunity to experience the power of faith on a national and international scale by attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. and share thoughts of faith with people from across our country and from all over the world.
The National Prayer Breakfast was founded in 1953 and is meant to unite individuals of different nationalities, religions and political perspectives through the power of prayer. It is one special day in early February that is set aside each year to bring people together for a day of faith and prayer. The Breakfast this year was attended by over 3,000 guests from more than 130 countries around the world. And, this year as in years past, was attended by both our President and Vice President as well as numerous Senators, Congressmen and Cabinet officials as well as heads of state from other countries. This year the leaders of three such countries attended – Ghana, Albania and Kosovo. What a tremendously positive experience.
Faith in Other Countries:
You can’t help but be inspired by the stories of faith from around the world. For instance, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, told the story of his struggles. How his political opponents criticized him on every dimension – even at one point taking out ads saying that he was ‘too short’ to ever be elected President. Then, how he lost his first several elections and then finally got elected after running for the office for the third time. As he explained, he did not get discouraged. it was his undying faith in his purpose that kept him going – and as he said, made him ‘unstoppable.’ Then, describing his moral compass in leading Ghana going forward, he also quoted perhaps our greatest and most faith inspired President, Abraham Lincoln. He said, ‘My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.’ In his quoting of Lincoln, I was struck by just how much influence we as Americans exert through our moral leadership – as the President of Ghana was invoking the positive power and faith of Abraham Lincoln.
Power of Belief
It's often said that ‘thoughts are things.’ Powerful things, Maybe they are the only things… A thought can create a picture of possibilities. If we have a clear view of what the picture is, we can go out and achieve it. In other words, if we can believe…. we can achieve!
This is such a compelling vision of the world. And, I love one particular example of how it actually works. It’s the amazing story of the four-minute mile.
Roger Banister and the Four Minute Mile
For decades, it was considered humanly impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. Many had tried and failed. In fact, doctors and physicians said a man might even die trying to run a mile in under four minutes.
Then came Roger Banister, a medical student at Oxford University who declared his mission to break the four-minute barrier. He developed a strong belief that he could achieve this goal. Keep in mind… most said it was impossible, and those few who thought it might be possible said the conditions – the weather, temperature, humidity, wind, the track, etc. – would have to be perfect in order even to have a chance at succeeding.
Bannister trained hard and finally made his attempt at the four minute mile in the spring of 1954. The young medical student started the day working at a hospital in London, then taking the train up to Oxford, with his race set for 6pm later in the afternoon. The day was anything but perfect. The wind was howling at 15 miles an hour when Roger Banister stepped onto the track at Oxford University on Iffley Road in the late afternoon looking to make history. It was a four-lap race, and after three laps, he was more than a full second off the required pace. However, something happened on that last lap. With 275 yards to go, he began a late surge. Finishing the race in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, thus shattering the heretofore seemingly impossible barrier. Bannister had broken the four-minute mile.
Because Banister was able to break the four-minute mile, others began to believe they could do the same thing. Incredibly, by the end of 1957, just three years later, an additional 15 people had broken the four-minute mile.
This power of Bannister’s achievement, propelled by unwavering belief, is truly inspirational. It seems it was the power of his belief that allowed him to achieve.
Now, what's even more interesting is what happened next. Because Banister was able to break the four-minute mile, others then also began to believe they could do the same thing. Incredibly, by the end of 1957, just three years later, an additional 15 people had broken the four-minute mile. This is after decades of no one accomplishing this feat. Furthermore, just ten years later, the four-minute mile had become so seeped into the conscious mind as a ‘doable’ achievement, a high school athlete from Kansas named Jim Ryan was able to break the four-minute barrier in 1964.
On a personal note, I have first-hand knowledge that even the track in Oxford where Bannister ran his famous race was not a very good track. In 1978, I watched a race there. It was a one-mile race between college athletes, and in the crowd was Sir Roger Banister. The athlete who won that day actually ran the mile in under four minutes. In honor of Banister’s earlier achievement, the crowd cheered and asked Sir Roger to do a victory lap with the winner of the race, and he did. So, I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing Roger Banister run around the same track. What a great thrill! And so interesting that by that time, it had become somewhat commonplace for accomplished runners at various levels to break the four-minute barrier.
Faith in Times of National Struggle:
While I was down in D.C. this week, I had the pleasure of being invited to take a private evening tour of the Capitol. As I was passing thru I saw so many of our national heroes commemorated in statues, paintings, plaques and proclamations. Most, if not all, showing great leadership and faith in times of national struggle. However, there was one in particular that caught my eye and interestingly, he wasn’t even an American. It was Winston Churchill.
Now there was a man – whose leadership and faith made all the difference. Almost without doubt, the greatest example of positive faith and leadership in the 20th century. When the Germans were closing in on England, London was suffering deadly bombing raids each night and invasion seemed imminent, Churchill’s faith never wavered. As he said at the time, 'As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.' Churchill not only said this but he believed it. And, it is this faith that arguably made the crucial difference in the war. Preserving freedom for the British people and the western democratic world as we had known it.
Every year, the Newport Carnival just keeps getting better and better. The first Newport, New Hampshire Winter Carnival took place in 1916 and has taken place every year since. So, as we look toward this current Carnival weekend – February 7th – 10th, it is worth taking a quick look back and admiring the enthusiasm and fun spirit of the past. Knowing that vibrant community spirit of Newport only keeps getting stronger each year. Thought you might enjoy this photo above from one of the popular events in 1921. Four Newport women competing in the toboggan. Love the old photo and particularly love their stylish hats!
Quotes of the Week: Faith
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘Only in the darkness, can you see the stars.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.’ Helen Keller