When Choosing Mentors…

I’m nearly eighty years old. As I look back on my journey down the yellow brick road of my life, mentors have profoundly helped me as I attempted to reach various goals and grasp the meaning of life. My first mentor was Brooks Oakford. I was nine years old when he asked me to work for him in his candy store just before Christmas. He saw potential in me and allowed me to work on a machine that coated pretzels with chocolate.

Brooks is showing me the old coating machine that I used.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of the impact that it would have upon me. I merely enjoyed working in a candy store. However, while I was a junior in college, Professor Louie Palmer hired me as his teaching assistant for a ten-hour required art history class that I had just taken. During my senior year, I taught a handful of sub-sections weekly of students that were my contemporaries at college. Additionally, I wrote and graded the midterm and final for both semesters.

Louie Palmer teaching a subsection

After you read this essay, jot down a list of people who are your mentors. These names make up the rest of my list of mentors: Teddy Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Norm Vaughan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bobby Kennedy, T. E. Lawrence, Neil Diamond, Carl Sagan, Gilgamesh, Steve Biko, Don Quixote, Andrea Bocelli, William Forrester, Anne Perry, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, Randy Pausch, Elizabeth Warren, Bo Bo Gyi, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Who we view as our mentors reflect a great deal regarding who we are. Mentors reflect what we deem as essential and, more importantly, push us to become a better person. Case in point, Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelenskyy is the president of Ukraine. Until 2019, I had never heard his name. However, Trump wanted Zelenskyy to find out dirt on Biden’s son, who worked for a company that had dealt with Ukraine. However, with the saber-rattling of Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, everyone in the entire world knows of Zelenskyy.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Putin envisioned that he could sweep through Ukraine in a Russian-like blitzkrieg and conquer that country in a few days. In that way, he could continue to acquire the countries of the former USSR. He invalid Ukraine, and what happened? The Ukrainians have stood their ground. Putin wanted to capture the capital of Kyiv and the upper echelon of the Ukrainian government, including President Zelenskyy.

Speaking of the German blitzkrieg, the Nazis did that in France during WWII. They swept through France in 1940, and before the capture of Paris, Gen. Charles de Gaulle became the Undersecretary for War. He would not sign a peace treaty with Hitler. He was defiant that he wouldn’t allow his government to surrender to the Nazis. It sounds like Ukraine replicated what happened in France over eight decades ago. Four years later, this is a video of the victorious celebration in Paris in 1944.

But wait. That video has de Gaulle arriving in Paris in an airplane. During the four years while the Nazis were in Paris, where was de Gaulle? The answer is in London, England. He had fled Paris and was leading the French resistance from the safety of London. This part of his speech to the troops. “Here are your marching orders for today: Defend France. I’m going to have a spot of tea. Then I will play croquet this afternoon with the British royal family. I’ll speak to you tomorrow. Carry On Defending France!”

The courageous leader of France

When choosing a mentor, think. History will remember Zelenskyy, de Gaulle, and each of us.