Clarence Jones came to speak at our school yesterday. He is an amazing speaker, someone who employs all different styles of speaking within one 45 minute time period, engaging us with reenacting the story of how he came to meet and work with Martin Luther King Junior and regaling us with tales of how he has gone on to teach at Stanford and write several books. At 80 years of age, he is energetic, articulate and young in speech and message. The kids and teachers alike hung on his every word. We were all coming face to face with a living figure from history.
I was struck by one of his biggest messages: the only way to work with others and accomplish anything is through love. He could have said any number of other things that would help one succeed in life, but he chose to say that love is the greatest thing. And, the reason I was struck by that is because lately, time and time again, I keep receiving this message from great artists and thinkers. They don’t name education or discipline or responsibility or motivation as the quality that most makes a life successful. They name love. Junot Diaz, speaking of the process of writing his most recent novel The Brief Wondrous Life of OScar Wao spoke at Montclair State University a few months ago. There, he conveyed to us that he had to grow into the person who could write the book that he was striving to write. He had to learn and develop the compassion necessary to write the book. He said that when he started the book he was not yet the person who could write that book. It took him 10 years to do it. And, indeed, in teaching that book for three years now, to my high school juniors and seniors, and I am struck by the deep message of compassion and love and breaking of silences that it teaches.
Jones stated that it’s not even the love for others that is so important. He said that we love others when we love ourselves.