Chris Jepson: Get off the bench

Chris Jepson

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I recently attended the annual literary luncheon of the Orlando/Winter Park Branch of the American Association of University Women. The AAUW is all about equity for women and girls, and I am all for that. It is great to be in a large room of sharp, opinionated women. The luncheon was held at the always happening Winter Park University Club.

I had paid no attention to who was the featured speaker other than the topic was “sports.” Dr. Richard Lapchick, Ph.D., endowed chair and director of the DeVos Sport Business Management program at UCF, it turned out, was scheduled to speak on some nebulous aspect of sport. Quite candidly I thought, “What the hell is this academic yahoo going to talk about?” Well, color me the rube. I haven’t been so impressed with a public speaker in years.

Once Dr. Lapchick introduced himself as the son of Joe Lapchick, I had a flood of warm memories associated with Joe Lapchick tennis shoes (Kinney) when growing-up in Sioux City, Iowa. Joe Lapchick was a phenomenal East Coast basketball legend (player/coach) who had his own “brand” with the Kinney Shoes; one of the first ever such sports celebrity endorsements. Lapchick was the Man. The real deal.

Dr. Lapchick spoke glowingly of the moral lessons and examples he observed in his father. Dr. Lapchick, born in 1945, observed firsthand the Jim Crow racism of 20th century America. He spoke authoritatively on the many beneficial contributions of sports in America as well as around the world. He worked with Nelson Mandela of South Africa, such that they considered each other real friends. So, too, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Muhammad Ali. Dr. Lapchick was violently attacked for supporting the anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s; he publicly advocated boycotting South African participation in international sports.

Dr. Lapchick is a polished speaker with a message that resonates: A message that is quintessentially American, a message that needs to be heard, and one I’ve been spouting for years. Everyone, every American, is part of the home team and when the team huddles-up, the color of your skin, your ethnicity, your religion is secondary to working together for the common good. Dr. Lapchick speaks of that inherent American quality (our collective team spirit), its importance and our need to continually commit to cultural inclusiveness.

Dr. Lapchick spoke of gathering a second wind that at this point in his life, as he closes in on 70, he is committing himself to the growing issue of female subjugation, violence and slavery (sexual) around the word and particularly in America. He spoke passionately about the power of people to organize for change and to achieve it.

He closed with an anonymous quote, “I cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do.” Get moving, in other words.

I cannot recommend enough Dr. Lapchick as a speaker (author/educator) with a message that will make you, again, feel good — that each of us can contribute, can play a role in helping America achieve its loftiest ideals.

America’s non-profit sector is where the proverbial rubber meets the road of societal change. The ideas that make us better human beings are often created, nurtured and applied in the working laboratories of our non-profit organizations. Whether it be the AAUW, the University Club of Winter Park or UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program, find your second wind, get involved, and do all the good you can do.