Monday, March 24, 2014

What parents can learn from Roberto Clemente

Warren Sepkowitz, the head of Charlotte Country Day's middle school, sends a weekly email to parents about what's going on at the school. He often starts it with a brief but wise note aimed at giving parents some perspective on raising teens and tweens. As the father of two daughters at the school, I always appreciate his thoughts.

Here's Sepkowitz's note for this week, on what parents can learn from baseball great Roberto Clemente. If you're a parent, or even just a baseball fan, you might enjoy it.

As I have mentioned before, as a kid, I was a voracious non-reader. Had no interest, except the sports page, which totally hooked me. Would devour all of it. Then little by little, sports biographies, which ultimately led to my master's thesis on Jackie Robinson's influence on the Civil Rights movement.
The sports page led me to the study of history, economics, civil rights, public policy, geography, leadership and a deepened cultural awareness of those from around the world.
A few years ago, I read a great biography on Roberto Clemente, the exquisite Hall of Fame right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who grew up in Puerto Rico. Previous to the book, I knew about his rocket right arm, his incredible batting, both for average and for power, and how he was the best player on the 1960 and 1971 world championship teams. I also knew that he, in 1955, and my all-time favorite player, Luis Aparicio of Venezuela, in 1956, became the linchpins for the integration of baseball for the Latin American ball players in the majors. I also knew that Clemente had died in humanitarian relief in trying to help those from the Nicaraguan earthquake in 1972.
What I learned from the book was how Puerto Rico was always within Clemente, how frustrating it was for him not to have access to the fullness of English, and the uniqueness of Puerto Rico. To be sure, there is the language and history from Spain, and the baseball from the USA and the commonwealth connection to the USA. And colonization from both.
What struck me was how the influences of both Spain and the USA percolate the country and its people, but ultimately, how Puerto Rico beats to its own Caribbean rhythms, foods and history.
Sound familiar? A specialness, a spirit, a beauty all its own with primary influences from two sources: Spain and the USA. And yet, there are other influences which are present as well: the West African slave influence and the native people, the Taino, who predate Columbus.
Your child has two main influences, which are his or her parents, but the generations before, the echoes of their history wash into their consciousness and spirit as well, which has helped to create your child's spirit and uniqueness. Perhaps one day, your child will strike out on her/his own, knowing their past, paying homage to their family, giving back again and again to others and lead a brilliant life such as Clemente's.

-- Taylor Batten


Alexander Miller said...

Roberto captured my imagination when I was 11 or 12 years old for all the reasons mentioned above. He played with passion and he lived ever mindful of his responsibility to make his community better. I really appreciate that this message is being communicated to our young people because it is really what life is about and what we should aspire to.