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Grace and Selflessness at the Speech Contest
By Matthew Archbold
A local Knights of Columbus chapter has been holding a speech contest for the past few years in our area. My children always take part. All the speeches are chosen from presidential speeches that reference God, and not just in a passing manner the way is done often nowadays. But speeches with God referenced repeatedly.
My son recited a large portion of Lincoln's second inaugural:
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
You might be surprised to hear such speeches from a president, considering how out of bounds any serious discussion of God is from our politics today. Lincoln would be labeled a religious nutjob today for delivering that speech.
My kids did well (thanks for asking) but that's not what I wanted to tell you about.
There was a pair of young boys, brothers, who took part in the competition. I think they're both in fourth grade. When the winners were announced the smaller of the two won third place. They were announcing third, then second, and then first. The smaller boy was so happy to win but what caught everyone's attention was his brother's reaction. Well, you would've thought his brother just won an Olympic gold medal and the lottery. His mouth formed a perfect circle and as his brother passed him to go accept his award he hugged him and slapped him on the shoulder and you could tell it took everything in him not to carry his brother up to the podium to receive his award. Everyone was moved. Then second place was announced. And finally, first place. Well, it turns out that the bigger brother won first place. It looked like he didn't even hear his own name at first because he was still so focused on congratulating his brother. His brother, however, was just as happy for him. It didn't even seem to occur to him that his brother beat him in the competition. He was absolutely thrilled for him.
His brother accepted his award and the two of them sat there all smiles.
Afterwards, all the parents weren't talking about the speeches themselves but about the brothers' reactions to each other winning. It wasn't about who memorized their speech. It wasn't about whose voice carried to the back of the room. It was about the selflessness and pride these brothers took in each other's accomplishments. There was something so beautiful in it. It was truly an example of grace and selflessness. It was amazing to see.
As a parent, I know that am proud of all my children's accomplishments. But what makes me more proud is when their brothers and sisters take joy in them as well. That's a lot harder. I think when your child can feel joy at other's accomplishments and sympathy at others' defeats, you've done something right.
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