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Jim Joseph Headshot

Standing On Your Shoulders

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Last week I attended the World Premiere Screening of a new documentary called The Renaissance Period of The African American in Sports.

The film chronicles the great African American athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Hitler's Berlin. The team brought home a series of medals from those games, shattering Hitler's quest to rule the games and further his mission.

Produced by Herb Douglas, now the oldest living Olympic medalist, the film is profoundly important in that it forces us to remember a critical time in American history ... one that feels particularly relevant in light of some current events.

During the ceremony to launch the film, there were a number of speakers on hand, including Herb Douglas himself. It's impossible not to be moved by the athletes' stories and by the team's accomplishments, but it was the commentary throughout the evening that inspired me most.

Several of the speakers commented on how they "stood on Herb's shoulders" as they advanced through their own lives. What an amazing way to put it! "Standing on your shoulders" is an acknowledgement that because of those who have come before us, we are able to move forward and accomplish even more. Because others broke down barriers to advance a cause, we are able to take it to the next level. Without the struggles and sacrifices of the generation before us, we would not be who we are. Indeed.

This is true no matter the generation, no matter the issue, no matter the color, shape, texture, or flavor.

It got me thinking about my own life. Who's shoulders do I stand on? Who paved the way for my personal success now? Some of those folks I know personally and some I do not, but each has made my own struggles a little bit easier, allowing me to continue on my journey.

And better yet, who stands on my shoulders? Am I paving the way for future generations to go even further? I certainly hope so, and strive to do so. It's our obligation and perhaps a way to "give back" or "pay it forward" as others have said.

"Standing on your shoulders." So inspiring, so moving, so appreciative, and so motivating. Makes me want to do better each and every day, for those who will come next. And to be eternally grateful for those who have come before me.

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