Working at the Banner has, in a short time, provided me with some amazing opportunities. They come in the form of the people I interview and the stories I cover. I guess I had some sense that these opportunities were a big deal but it didn’t really hit me until recently when someone I was interviewing for the Banner commented that he was excited when I contacted him because he read one of my previous sports related stories and enjoyed it. I think interviewing Edwin Moses falls into the category of “big deal.”
With most of my stories, they always seem to almost not happen. With the Moses interview it actually almost didn’t happen. My editor emailed me on a Wednesday with the info about Moses receiving the honorary degree from UMass-Boston. I immediately said I was free to cover the event before I checked my schedule. Admittedly I had to work on the day he was to receive the degree but I figured I would be able to work around that if need be.
I got in touch with Will Kilburn, who is the real unsung hero of this whole event. I’ll talk more about him later. He informed me that Moses would be in town on Thursday for some pre-commencement events and then on Friday for the commencement itself. Thursday was a packed day for me already because I promised a friend I’d hang out with her before she left for London and there was an ACLU event I wanted to go to in the early evening.
I asked Kilburn if there would be time either before or after the commencement ceremonies to speak with Moses, he told me that Moses was on a tight schedule and would not be available on the day of the commencement. He suggested Thursday. I was hesitant because of my prior commitments. Little did I know, they would eventually be tossed to the side.
There was a dinner function honoring Moses at UMass-Boston that I wanted to attend. Kilburn told me that I wouldn’t be able to go, he also added that he wasn’t able to attend either… I think he was trying to make me feel better about not being able to go.
At an impasse, Kilburn and I decided to have Moses call me on Thursday so we could do a phone interview, not ideal, but I’d still be able to get the story and turn it around for next Tuesday’s Banner.
I spent Thursday eying my phone, more so than usual, because I was expecting Moses’ call. As the day wore on, and my phone did not ring, I began to get nervous because time was running out. Periodically, Kilburn would email me to see if Moses had called. I was polite about it because Kilburn was obviously working hard to get me what I needed.
I spent the afternoon at my friend’s apartment working on a project. I packed some dress clothes and brought them with me on the off chance that I might be able show up the dinner. About 5:20 p.m. Kilburn called me. It was a number I didn’t recognize so I got excited at first thinking it was Moses. Talking to Kilburn was just as informative. He told me that he spoke to his boss who said I could attend the dinner function to speak with Moses in person.
The issue now is that the ACLU event starts at the same time as the dinner, 6 p.m.
This wasn’t a difficult choice; the ACLU meeting would be missed. With forty minutes until the dinner started, I did my best “quick change” and headed over to UMass-Boston.
I often find myself reveling in who I get to interview. Interviewing Moses was no different. What I found most interesting is that he is humble about his success. I expected him to more brash about his accomplishments, both academically and athletically. He is has an advanced degree in physics and he is a world-class and Olympic sprinter, but he would rather let his accomplishments speak for themselves.
He was not good enough to be recruited as a sprinter so his focus was his education. However, Morehouse College allowed him to continue his athletics despite the fact that Morehouse did not have track equipment or facilities.
As we talked he told stories of jumping fences at local high schools and parks in Atlanta to find appropriate training facilities while at Morehouse. His dedication to his sport is impressive. I’m not sure I can say that I would do the same in his position.
Obviously, after college, which he finished with a degree in physics, he went on to Olympic and World Competition fame winning Olympic medals and remaining undefeated for close to 10 years. More jaw-dropping than that, is his work with the Laureus World Sports Academy. Working around the globe to implement sports programs that affect social justice is something that needs to be done.
As for the honorary degree, Moses was almost too cool about it. Almost as if he expected to receive something like this. It came off a bit arrogant, which was in line with my initial feeling that he would be brash. It was interesting because his wife and mother seemed more excited about his degree than he did initially.
But when he told me that he was shocked to receive a notice of the honorary degree in the mail it humanized him. He said, “You only receive bills and bad news in the mail.” I’m glad I got that quote in because it really gave a peek into his thinking.
In the end, I think Moses might have thought that he would never be recognized for his efforts, especially after the debacle with the prostitute.
It’s a good thing he was recognized. I think we need hold up more black men like Moses. As a noted physicist and Olympic athlete, Moses is the definition of a scholar athlete. Why not push him forward as a model of how to not only be a man, but a black man.