One thing that intrigues me is how we pick mentors in life. Whether it is a conscious choice or whether it is by happenstance, mentors teach us by example. They become surrogate parents. These are my mentors: Brooks Oakford, Louie Palmer, Teddy Roosevelt, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bobby Kennedy, T. E. Lawrence, Carl Sagan, Steve Biko, Don Quixote, William Forrester, Anne Perry, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Randy Pausch. Each one of those mentors has both a positive and profound effect upon my life.
I would love to ask Donald Trump who his mentors are. I assure you that we don't have a similar list...not even one name would be the same. While the Donald has money and I don't, I would not trade places with him, his personality, and attitude.
Mentors are not perfect. They all err. Each one of my mentors has stumbled and fallen, only to stand-up again. I'm only three or four years older than Trump; we essentially grew up in the same time period. During the 60s when I was in college and graduate school, Bobby Kennedy was my mentor back then and remains a part of my life. Look at the difference between Kennedy and Trump.
Interestingly, if you asked Bobby who his mentors were, he would start with the Greeks. Bobby said that his favorite poet was Aeschylus who wrote:
Bobby quoted Aeschylus on April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Indiana, at a speech to a largely black crowd of supporters. He had to tell them that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Then he continued,
Trump disses Muslims and Mexicans while Bobby reaches out to another minority group in the States. What a comparison.
Kennedy's attitude and rhetoric was radically different from Trump's. Bobby said a half century ago, "But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?"
What intrigues me is that both Kennedy and Trump had money. However, Bobby had the ability to understand those less well off financially or in any other way. He was able to relate to the disenfranchised, "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress." Bobby cared for the other person. About whom does the Donald care? I can list those about whom he doesn't care.
Bobby said, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Kennedy wanted to tear down walls. The Donald wants to build walls. He wants a wall between Mexico and the US, for which he will make Mexico pay for. In addition, he wants to wall off all America from Muslims coming to the US. What the Donald doesn't understand is that neither the Great Wall of China nor the Berlin Wall worked. In spite of that historic fact, Trump said, "I'd build it. I'd build it very nicely. I'm very good at building things."
Bobby had issues with swagger. "Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others." Which of these two photos is an example of swagger and bluster?
I have sixteen people that I consider my mentors. Only a quarter of them are still alive. Bobby was killed nearly a half century ago. In spite of that, Bobby made a lasting impression upon me during his life, and he still does.
Finally, this essay has been about my mentors, like Bobby Kennedy. Take a moment to list your mentors, those people who affect you as you journey down the yellow brick road of life.
Visit the Bobby Kennedy page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Donald the Dumb page to read more about this topic.