What It takes to Be

a Champion








Prosperity: The Choice Is Yours
February 23, 2005

Being a Champion

A champion is a winner,
A hero…
Someone who never give up
Even when the going gets rough.

A champion is a member of
A winning team…
Someone who overcomes challenges
Even when it requires creative solutions.

A champion is an optimist,
A hopeful spirit…
Someone who plays the game,
Even when the game is called life…
Especially when the game is called life.

There can be a champion in each of us,
If we live as a winner,
If we live as a member of the team,
If we live with a hopeful spirit,
For life

September 1999
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek


For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column for the
online website called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is
a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie
stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is
terminating the column to move on to other things in his life.
Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein's Last Column



How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury
Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means
put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is
"eonline FINAL", and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been
doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started.
I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe
it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person
and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's,
while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to.
It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I
saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice
visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren
Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass
was a super movie. But, Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was,
though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think
Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant,
friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to
be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for
memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no
longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage
and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if
by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and
attractive as a role model?

Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or
in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating
only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.
They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me
any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked
his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been
met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an
abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent
people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb
next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the
bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day,
is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with
a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was
guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just
as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and
a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who
have lavish weddings on TV, but the ones who patrol the streets
of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and
their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis
from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers
of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape
by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq
and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are
anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that
has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values
by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a
big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...
the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central
and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and
paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible
accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses
who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children;
the kind men and women who work in hospices and in
cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the
stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse.
Now you have my idea of a real hero.

We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and
what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction;
and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better
care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make
ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the
movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that
matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it
another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an
actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin
Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson
or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely
close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife
and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much
for me. This came to be my main task in life.

I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife,
and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for
and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with
my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma
and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading
him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the
soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize
that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that
it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me,
to help others. He has placed in my path. This is my highest
and best use as a human. Faith is not believing that God can.
It is knowing that God will.

By Ben Stein
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