In 1956 I attend a lecture by General William F. Dean at Washington State College. In 1950 the General was put in charge of defending South Korea against the North Korean invasion. He and his troops were stationed in Japan, and they were quickly sent over to slow the North Korean invasion while a larger force could be prepared. It was too small a force to successfully slow the large advancing army, and his troops were almost driven into the sea. During the desperate delaying operations, he was lost for a month behind enemy lines and nearly starved to death, before being captured. For many months he was thought to be dead, and was given the Medal of Honor for his valiant service. It was accepted, posthumously, by his wife. Many months later it was discovered that he was alive and being kept a prisoner in a secret location. “TIME Magazine did an article on his story and imprisonment, featuring an image of him on the magazine’s front cover,” according to Wikipedia.
At the time I attended the lecture it seemed like an appropriate event, and the recently returned General Dean was thought of and treated as a war hero. That lecture might have had an influence on my taking advanced Air Force ROTC, I don’t know, and with a little research was unable to discover the date that he gave the lecture. I am writing about this because that event came up this morning when I was talking with my old coffee-shop friends. We were talking about the meaning of life, human life, life in general, and the word enthusiasm came up. It was mentioned that the word was from classic times and that it meant filled-with-god. But, for me, it triggered thoughts of that lecture by General Dean from sixty years ago. General Dean had told interesting stories about his difficulties in Korea, and funny stories about his confinement as a unique high-ranking prisoner of war. The real meaning of the lecture was not to tell funny stories but to inspire us college students with a purpose for our lives.
That was possibly the first time I had heard an inspirational lecture from someone who was authentically inspiring. It was far more than someone telling us what we ought to do; it was being given by someone who had done marvelous things, early in life, during WWII, and during the Korean War. It was his observations as to what made a man into a worthwhile human being. He summarized his observations into three words that we could take away and easily remember. They were: honesty, integrity and enthusiasm.
I have often thought of those words, and believe that I have lived by the first two reasonably well. I am very honest in my relations with people, and I behave with the integrity of being who I am and representing myself honestly to the world. My shortcoming, and I haven’t really thought about it much, is enthusiasm. I have been accused many times of not displaying enough enthusiasm! In situations where I might have shown enthusiasm, I tended to transcend the idea in people’s minds at the moment and respond with sarcasm. When I think over the innumerable times I’ve done this I can see why my instructors and friends have had a problem with me. Perhaps it’s not too late to change.
I’ve led a life of cold sarcasm when I should have been filled with enthusiasm.