I am extremely blessed to be able to bring Roosevelt to life for audiences across the country. It’s time I shared a secret: I get as much, if not more back from the people I meet. One of the things I love about “being Teddy” is the opportunity to hear other people’s stories.
Over the past week, I met two young boys who will grow to be amazing young men. Their parents gave them names that stand out and I am sure they take a razzing from kids at school. Unlike the shy boy or girl, I often meet who when I ask their names they look away, both of these young boys said their names loud and proud. I wish everyone was born with the idea that they celebrated their uniqueness rather than shied away from it. Their names? Lake and Granite! Great, natural names that will give them a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Then there was the 94-year old I met last weekend at the National Parks regional center. Her family had gathered in Omaha Nebraska for a reunion, When I asked the Matriarch if this was something they did often, she leaned into me and in a soft voice said “No, they think I am going to die soon” and then gave a wink. I knew I was in for some life lessons, so I leaned in close and our eyes locked. The the next 45 minutes are a blur as she made me smile and laugh as I learned about her growing up in New York, her move to Omaha, her family and her desire to make it to 100. She was an amazing woman with a family who adored her. Being adored is the sign in life that you are doing the right things, and she had and continues to do so in spades.
I love meeting people because you meet character and people of character. Some of my best friends are amazing characters. My friend Tom is the reason I am able to do what I do today. He portrays Buffalo Bill Cody, perhaps one of the best to ever don the outfit, and taught me the art of dressing western and telling a story and staying in touch with friends. My friend Larry is an artist and Olympic level marksman who has taught me you are never too old to follow a dream (He’s not old to me, but to the young folks he competes against, they don’t know what hit them). He is that rare combination of philosopher, artist, and humorist.
One who I see only twice a year but who influences me every day is a cowboy/bow fishing friend named Ray. His wit and insights are told in a way only an old cowboy can: “Don’t squat with yur spurs on”,. This should be part of every 4th-grade curriculum. He is a Nebraskan of the finest order and I hope the state has the common sense to erect a statue of him someday.
I don’t know what it is about Nebraska, but some of my best “people experiences” happen there. Case in point, This past weekend I met “California Joe”, who happened to stop into the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Omaha the day I was there. As we talked, he shared some insights with me about life and each made me chuckle. As we got to know the other, there came an invitation to visit him in his cowboy camp during the summer. You can be sure I will be going.
My point is this: If you watch the television news you will not be seeing the reality of who most of us American’s are. You need to go the local park around the corner, the local baseball game. It is here, where you see children playing, neighbors helping neighbors and people cheering on the little boy or girl who is doing their best. That’s the America most of us enjoy and will continue to do so as long as we are engaged with each other in meaningful dialog and pursuits.
Being together is the best way to keep us from growing apart.