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All NACDA Members
Olympic Fire
(Wednesday, June 12, 8:00 - 8:45 a.m.)

Jim Copeland:

Good morning. It seems quite fitting that we opened our Convention with Billy Payne and today, we are very privileged to have probably the United States' best known Olympic athlete speak to us, Bob Richards. I'm going to summarize the things he has accomplished at this point in his life. Please understand that this is just a summary. Please also understand that the guy introducing him, has a problem getting out for a 40-minute walk, much less to do a work out. As I read through this bio the other night, I thought "this can't be real. No one person could have done these things."

He is, first and foremost, probably best known for being the winner of two Gold Medals and one Bronze in the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympics. He has won 26 national indoor and outdoor championships during his career as a decathlete and pole vaulter. He received the World Masters' Gold Medal in pole vaulting in 1983, finished in the World Masters top five in 1985 and 1991 and he is a member of seven halls of fame. He conceived and ran the Junior Champs Program for the National Jaycees. He has served as the Goodwill Ambassador to Asia. He's authored four books, been the subject of numerous television specials, given over an estimated 12,000 speeches during a 30-year period. He's a longtime spokesman, and this is a tribute to promoters and the marketers, for Wheaties and most of our kids know him best for being on the box of Wheaties. He has two degrees from the University of Illinois and has taught at the college level.

Please welcome Bob Richards.

Bob Richards:

What a great honor to be here this morning. What a spot! I couldn't help hotel on this beautiful beach, the story of the gu but think when I drove up here and saw this magnificently who had the little female parrot. All day long, all she'd do is jump up onto the top rung and scream out, "I'm a swinger. I'm a swinger. I'm a swinger." He went to his priest and said, "Hey, I've got this problem. I've got this little female parrot and all she does all day long is scream out, 'I'm a swinger, I'm a swinger.'" The priest said, "Don't worry. Bring your little parrot down. We've got parrots in our little cage. All they do all day long is pray and say the Rosary. That's all they do all day long is pray. So, we'll put your little parrot in with our little parrots and everything will be fine." So, sure enough, he brought the little female parrot down and put her in the cage. She jumped to the top of the rung and screamed out, "I'm a swinger. I'm a swinger. I'm a swinger." One of the other parrots said, "Put the beads away, George. Our prayers have been answered." That's the way I feel coming down to this fantastic spot. Wow, this is an answer to prayer!

I don't know what Billy Payne did, but I want to talk the language of sports. Years ago, there was a tremendous quotation in Sports Illustrated. They quoted perhaps one of our greatest writers and the greatest piece of rhetoric, "I'd rather be ashes than dust." This is Jack London. "I'd rather my spark go out in a burning flame than that it be stifled with dry rot. I'd rather be a meteor blazing across the sky, every atom in me in magnificent glow than to be a sleepy and permanent planet. Life is to be lived, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I will use my time." I just love this quotation.

They asked Kenny Stabler, the Oakland quarterback at the time, to go out to Oakland Square where this quotation is and give an athletic interpretation of this great piece of rhetoric. Kenny isn't known for his intellectual prowess. He looked up at this magnificent quotation, looked down and looked up and tried to figure it out. He finally said, "Throw deep." Well, that's what I'm going to do today. I'm going to throw deep. More important, I'd like for you to go out of here every atom in magnificent glow. They say there's 43 trillion cells in the average person. I'd like to talk about the world that I've known, perhaps the best, and I want you to help me.

Atlanta is 30 days away. All of the great athletes of the world are beginning to dream their dreams and to assemble in this once in a lifetime moment. Stand tall. The world is waiting. Prepare to meet the best in the world. Plato says you can see life written large in the Olympics, spelled out in big letters for all of the world to see. I'm a great exponent of the Olympic ideal. I love Baron Pierre de Coubertin. When he died, he said, "Bury my heart in Mount Olympus." You could almost do that with me. I love the Greek ideal of the total man -- physical, mental, social, spiritual, volitional. I love the concept of peace through sports.

That's really what the Olympics are all about. Peace through sports. Come together, friendly rivalries and then, shake hands, throw your arms around each other -- brotherly love. What an ideal! It's mankind's deepest and greatest hope. Peace through sports. Peace through sports. You go to the spot. The crowd is quiet. The gun goes off and you watch these kids reaching out. It's the struggle for greatness. It's more than just sports. You coaches and athletic directors know what I'm talking about. You're talking about the person, the psyche. You go into this thing with everything you have. I love the Olympics. I love Altius, Citius, Fortius. What a slogan! That's all you'll see on every Olympic stadium and you'll watch these young kids trying to break every record, trying to excel, trying to be the best. Isn't that really what life is all about?

I want to talk about the fire, the hidden fire in each heart. These athletes don't just walk in with just muscle cells and bones, they walk in with ideas, concepts. You are what you think. I love the Olympics because you boil it down to a dream. For example, I think of a little guy who was five years of age when his mother and father took him to Mount Olympus. He looked up and said, "Mom and Dad, I'm going to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics." Well, it was John Nabers -- four Gold Medals.

When does a dream start? How important is it that athletes, children, think the right thoughts? I think when Bonnie Blair was born, her father must have gone out into the streets and yelled, "Today is born an Olympic champion." First pictures of her showed her with ice skates on. Can you imagine a little one-year-old baby with ice skates on? By the way, I've had the most unusual experience the past few years. I've been giving talks about great athletes only to find out that behind every great athlete is a coach, a father, a mother, a person who gave them a dream. All this time I've been speaking, 40 years, and finally, I put it all together. Behind every great athlete is a great person who gave the person a dream. It's amazing.

I don't know how many of you have ever heard Jesse Owens give a speech. I used to follow him around the country. He'd stand up before a group like this and say, "Who knows but what there is an Olympic champion right here in this auditorium?" Well, kids would come up and say they wanted to be exactly like him. He'd go on with that speech and say, "Black isn't beautiful. White isn't beautiful. I'll tell you what's beautiful. Take a dream and make something of your life. That's beautiful. International love is beautiful. International friendship is beautiful.

But, the most important thing is to get a dream and make something of your life." He gave Harrison Dillard a pair of his old shoes and said, "Son, I want you to fill these shoes." I don't have to tell you that Harrison Dillard won four Gold Medals.

I told his story on Olympic spirit just this past week, how he ran home and said to his mother, "Mother, I'm going to be like Jesse Owens. I'm going to be a Gold Medal winner." Well, Jesse was perhaps the greatest pied piper of sports ever known. I had the privilege of giving Carl Lewis his Outstanding Athlete of the Year Award, the Jesse Owens Award. Dan Rather was the emcee. We were in a big room like this before the meeting. He asked, "How many of you have been influenced by Jesse Owens?" Three-fourths of the room stood up. The unbelievable thing was they were all Olympic champions.

What does it matter that a guy gives a message in a high school and a boy or girl, all of a sudden, crystallizes into a dream. I think of Carl's father. He ran his little boy of five years old up to Jesse and said, "Touch my little boy. I want him to be just like you." Jesse reached out and said, "Well shorty, if you'll work and if you'll dream, you can win a Gold Medal." Carl said he looked up into Jesse's face and said, "I want to be like that." How important is that split second in life? They claim it takes one billionth of a watt to motivate a person, one little thought or one little concept. Well, Jesse did that over and over and over again.

I think of Jesse being in a room in East St. Louis with only five people in the room and saying, "Who knows that there isn't a champion right here." Well, there were two kids there, Jackie Joyner and Al Joyner. Jackie stood up and said, "I'm not going to be a prostitute or a dope peddlar." All around her on every door step was dope, blood and violence. "I'm going to be a champion." Well, after three Gold Medals, she is still going for a couple more. Al Joyner, her brother, is a Gold Medalist. But always, there's the person who transmits the dream.

I think of Flo Jo on her pillow every night, "I want a Gold Medal. I want a Gold Medal." Of course, you know the story. One day, she started beating her husband, Al Joyner, and he said, "Wow, this gal's really fast." 10.49 100-meters, unbelievable! She'd have beaten Owens. Maybe not on cinders, but anyway. This is a pretty sharp crowd. You caught that one right away. Three Gold Medals later, but it starts with a dream.

It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Read current literature. Here's Dan Jansen, going to the Olympics, greatest ever speed skater. But, his sports psychologist says to him, say after me, "I love the thousand. I love the thousand. I love the thousand." Thinking he'd never need it but, what happened? Does it matter that you say inside your head, I love a particular event? I was so amazed when they had all of the great milers celebrate Roger Bannister's breaking four minutes in the mile. All of the great Olympic champions were there and they asked each and every one of them why they put out so hard, why they trained so hard. Bannister was the first one to respond. Listen to Roger's language. Of course, he's a brilliant doctor now. "Do you know the thrill of feeling the earth swirl up underneath you? Do you know the thrill of conquering gravity, of doing something no one else has ever done in history? Do you know the thrill of that? I love to run." Every single miler there said, "I love to run. I love to run." Deep in the heart of man, there's a principle -- you become great when you love something.

I'll never forget when I went over a crossbar in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1947. I was coming down like a bolt out of the blue. You can win the Olympics. From that time on, I never had a work out. I had a magnificent obsession. I couldn't stop running or lifting weights, or couldn't stop jumping. That's the thrill of life, to fall in love with a great dream, a great ideal and give your life to it.

What I'm trying to say is, it all starts inside the fire. They light the torch, but the greatest torch to light is the one inside you. Again, I come back, inside it's only an electron, a little tiny flash, but it can be the entire difference in all of life. Don't let anything take that dream away. If I was to ask you today, what would be the odds of certain people winning Gold Medals in the Olympics? Go back into the broad panorama of this Olympic history. It's absolutely incredible, the stories.

Think of Ray Ewry with polio. He won nine Gold Medals. Think of this little girl in Philadelphia, also with polio, trying to get an arm out of the water, Shelley Mann. Here's all of the other little kids splashing through the water. Would you have bet on Shelley Mann? Months to get an arm out. See her as I did in Melbourne -- red, white and blue on the green waters, Star Spangled Banner playing, tears streaming down her face as she reaches out and takes the Gold Medal.

Walter Davis couldn't even do a push up laying on the ground, all 6 feet 11 inches of him. Would you ever think that kid's spastic responses would ever? Look at the 1952 Helsinki high jump results. Buddy Davis, Gold Medal.

The Ceremony closed with the equestrian. I'll never forget Lis Hartel. There wasn't a dry eye. Everyone was crying. Here was a girl who had gotten polio and wanted to compete. It was the first time a woman could compete in the Olympics in the equestrian. She asked them to put her up on a horse and she fell off again and again. Everyone there knew the story. It was the Closing Ceremonies for me. But, I watched as Otto, the Swede, pulled that girl up onto the victory stand. She could barely stand. The roar of the crowd and the applause and the colors from the sunset reflecting the colors on the people's tears changed that medal's color from Silver into Gold.

I have watched these incredible things. Wilma Rudolph, five before she ever hit the ground, won three Gold Medals. It goes on and on. Lasse Viren with anemia got a dream, looked up in the clouds and said, "I want to be like Paavo Nurmi." Talk about an impossible dream? You all know the story how he built up his blood and made the Finnish Olympic team and went to Munich. He got down and fell over the front, hit his head and was unconscious on the field. I was there in the stands representing the President. I saw those five guys go down. One hundred and fifty yards behind, with a dream in his heart, he started running again. Would you have bet on him? You know the story. He caught up with the other guys, beat them to the tape, broke the Olympic record and broke the world record. Two weeks later, he won another Gold Medal and four years later, he won two more Gold Medals in Montreal. He now stands side-by-side with Paavo Nurmi in the history of the Games.

Dreams. Dreams. Are they God's dreams that man will learn to live together and men will love one another? Yes, they're dreams, but they're God's dreams. You watch these kids and they will indelibly imprint upon your heart the fact that you've got to have an idea. You've got to have a dream. Some of you have heard me tell this story. I had a church in Long Beach, California. I had a pit there and would go out and pole vault. A little girl watched me every day. One day I asked her what she was going to do with her life. She looked up at me and said, "I'm going to be the greatest woman tennis player that ever lived." Goodness sakes, she was kind of fat and bubbly, had on bifocals. I thought that she was the most unlikely tennis player that I'd ever seen. Well, it was Billy Jean Moffit, Billy Jean King.

Dreams, are they? I have seen this thing. I watched it in the last Olympic Games in Barcelona and couldn't believe it. Quincy Watts' father rushed into the room with a great big poster of the Olympics. He put across the top, "Quincy Watts, Olympic Champion, 400 meters, 44 flat."

Quincy walked up and crossed it out and said, "Dad, I've got to run 43.7 to win." Guess what he ran? 43.7 and won the Gold. I can't even begin to tell you the number of athletes who have told me exactly to the tenth of a second and the quarter of an inch, what they're going to do in the Olympics and they do it, exactly what they say. Not the least of which, Bruce Jenner, 10 events and did it. He waved the flag. You saw him wave it in Montreal.

We are the product of our thought patterns. That's why, feed your children the greatest tapes you can and the greatest books. The most important thing you can give an athlete is a mental set of ideas and concepts. You tell me what it is. I don't know. I only know that when this thing starts to crystallize in your head, every cell in your body starts to be synchronized. You talk about every atom in magnificent glow -- when you've got a dream and a goal. Aristotle put it this way, "Teleology. You become what you go for." The end determines what you are. Go for the greatest because you watch these kids expand, you watch them get a dream, watch their muscles grow and watch their speed grow. It's amazing. Life is oriented around ideas. Ideas have consequences in sports. I've seen it over and over again. Kevin Young wrote 46.8 on every hotel mirror he stayed in. He said he was going to break Edwin Moses' world record in 400-meter hurdles. You talk about a record! I thought no one will ever break that record. Anyway, what did he do in Barcelona? Forty six-point eight, exactly what he wrote on 1,000 mirrors and on his own refrigerator door. You become what you go for.

It's the greatest lesson of sport. It's the greatest contribution sport can make for you. One day, all of your records are gone. One day, they've forgotten you and maybe even your event, but the thing that matters is what it did for you in terms of teaching you the greatest lesson in life, to go for great goals, great thoughts, great dreams.

I think of Steve Lundquist. I just saw him two days ago in Atlantic City where they had Olympic Legends. He was supposed to win five Gold Medals in 1980, when they boycotted the Games. He gave up and began boozing, fooling around and lost his dream. His mother called me since he had been training on some of my tapes. She asked me to just talk to him at SMU and see what I could do. Notice, it was the mother who made the call. I called him and asked him to come out to my ranch with his girlfriend. We'll ride some horses and just talk. He came out. While we were there, the strangest coincidence, NBC played a blurb from Moscow. I was supposed to work with NBC Olympic Odyssey. Anyway, five minutes and it showed a guy winning, Steve Lundquist, Gold Medal in the 100-meter breast stroke. I didn't have to say a word. That big old 6-foot, 2-inch guy, with tears coming down, said, "Bob, I'm not quitting. I'm coming back. I'm going to win three Gold Medals in Los Angeles." Well, he was wrong, he only won two. But, you see how important that mind set is?

Hans Durtz, the great swimmer, says they now coach by having a guy go through every stroke and he does it in his head. He has a stop watch, starts it himself and at the end of what he thinks is the race, he pushes the button. Guess what he says they do every time. They push the button exactly what they swim it in the pool. It's amazing what this mind set can do.

I mentioned the Dan Jansen story. Isn't that amazing? Slipping and falling, pow, pow! His sister died of cancer, which was the apparent reason. Anyway, now he's the best in the world and has broken every world record. He was going to win the 500 so easily. He went out onto the ice, but he boggled it again and lost. I love the 1,000. I love the 1,000. He had to do it. He had everyone pulling for him. In the last event, he wins the Gold and breaks the world record. The little girl, named Jane after his dead sister. They put the Gold Medal on his neck. You can see him as he looked up into the skies, "I won it for you, Jane. I won it for you." I love the silent witness. You don't debate it and Jane is still alive. Mom's still alive.

Is there any greater story than Pablo Morales? Can't win the Gold? Two Olympics now and, of course, he's won the Gold in the relay, but he didn't win the big one in 200-meter fly. His mother said, "Pablo, if you go, we'll support you. We want you to go back and win the Gold." At 26, he went back into the pool and trained every day. You know the story. His mother died just before the Olympics in Barcelona. I'll never forget that NBC camera going by his face, up into the stands. There was Pablo's father with a picture of the dead mother on his chest. You could almost see the mind set of Pablo Morales. When the horn went off, he went into that water like he had never swum before, cascading across the top, swimming to the beat of an unknown drummer, his mom. He hit the tape and won the Gold Medal. No doubt about it. He screams out to the world, "I won it for you Mom. I won it for you."

Great, great inspiring stories out of the Olympics, page after page. Oh, if I could just give you the stories. The little barefoot boy from Ethiopia and Italy. All the others. What I'm trying to get at is, it's some of the greatest psychological studies in the history of man. I close where I began. Carl Lewis walked into the funeral parlor in New Jersey. He put his Gold Medal inside his father's hand. This is in his book on track. Willie Gault, the great football player and runner was there and saw him. Carl closed his father's fingers on the Gold Medal and said, "It fit perfectly." He said to his father, "Don't worry, Dad, I'll win another one." Of course, it's my belief that his father is looking on, looking on.

Stand tall, the world is waiting. Altius, Citius and Fortius is for me a language that goes on throughout all of eternity constantly reaching out. "What's a Heaven for," said Browning, "but to be striving to be the best?" God didn't make you to crawl on all fours and to look at the ground. He made you to stand on two feet and to look at the stars. We're made for greatness. We're made to succeed. Go for it! God will help you. Thank you.

Jim Copeland:

Bob did not know that Billy Payne had opened our session for us. Bob, what you don't know is that Billy spoke about what you mentioned today. It was quite fitting what we heard today. We really appreciate your being here with us. Here's a small remembrance from us. Thank you.