Monday, February 17, 2014

Who Is On Your Mount Rushmore?

I suppose no day is more appropriate than President's Day 2014 to think about a question many people have been discussing since LeBron James was asked—Who is on your Mount Rushmore? 
My sister and I visited in 2001; it was completely fogged in. Oh well.
Although LeBron was asked to name the individuals who would stand on his Mount Rushmore for the NBA, the question invites us to think about the original monument carved out of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The carving, which started in 1927 and was completed in 1941, easily could have featured leaders from a singular era, but that's not what you see. Although many Americans can readily name three of the four presidential greats, the man responsible for the protection of so much American land and wildlife through the creation of our National Park system (one of which is Mt. Rushmore) is the fourth face—none other than Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. 

In recent years, I have heard some say it's time we make room for another; voices have called for adding Ronald Reagan. Part of me wonders if one day, Mount Rushmore will include a female face? It's a fun conversation to have, and I'm sure that's why LeBron James put himself out there when he answered it.
No Bill Russell? Really?!
For the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, the question was asked in relation to his craft. As written by Dwaine Price of the Sac Bee, "James said his Mount Rushmore of players - the four greatest NBA players of all-time - would include Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. For what it's worth, that's not a bad fearsome foursome.

But we all know that going down that greatest of all-time lane is a game you can't win. Particularly when you limit yourself to just four players.
James, however, went there and did that, and the criticism naturally started pouring in from all corners of this global sport. James, who also said somebody's got to be removed from Mount Rushmore because he's going to be at the top of the mountain when his career is over, believes the historical architects have some more house cleaning to do."
From the moment he answered the question, people have raised even more. How or why he did not include Wilt Chamberlain? What about Kareem Abdul- Jabar? And who is Oscar Robertson—the "TR" of his Mount? And I would like to raise another. Who is on yours? Why? 
I think it's a fun question to entertain and to consider in various domains.  Who is on your spiritual Mount Rushmore? One for your favorite sport or your passion? For your faith?
Last Thursday, I attended a breakfast hosted by the Catholic Professionals of San Jose that featured the head football coach of the San Jose Spartans, Ron Caragher. Without even knowing it, he essentially revealed who was on his personal Mount Rushmore—one for character and outstanding virtue. 
Raised by a single mother, Caragher was tremendously grateful for the male role models who shaped his life—his character, men who set examples of strong leadership and how to be a gentleman. What was striking to me is that he met each of these men through his participation in athletics. 
In sharing the story of how he returned home to the San Jose area with his wife Wendy and their three sons, he extended his gratitude to the great coaches who shaped him along the way. His fifth-grade football coach, and another one at Bellarmine—where he went to high school. Terry Donahue was tremendously influential in Caragher becoming the coach that he is today. Recruited as a quarterback, Carragher's fate changed when a man named Troy Aikman transferred to UCLA. Donahue however, kept Ron Caragher involved from the sidelines. He was tasked with tracking plays when he wasn't backing up Aikman.
The beauty of one's own Mount Rushmore is that you can include people you know and those who admire from afar. They can be from multiple eras and even opposing teams. And Ron Caragher would agree. Although he never played for John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, Caragher has read enough about his leadership and commitment to excellence that it was obvious to me that the "Wizard of Westlake" would be his fourth and final face on his Mountainside. I am certain Wooden's principles and the pyramid of success guide the San Jose State Spartans football team under Caragher's leadership today.
As a Catholic, I recognize that my faith tradition affords me with hundreds of examples of men and women who have given their lives in total service to God and to others. There is no shortage of saints to place on my Catholic Mount Rushmore. Mary and Joseph, Mother Teresa, and Saint Paul come to mind. But, so do everyday people that have colored my world. 
On this President's Day, I invite you to think of Americans you might place on your Mount Rushmore and take it from there....for music lovers, maybe a Rock n Roll Mount Rushmore? For tennis players—I would love to read that one! Is there room for a fifth face? Might you be on anyone's Mount Rushmore? As Russell Wilson's father might say "Why not you."  

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