Written by George Glaros, Business and Accounting program chair
While bedridden from back surgery in 1955, freshman U.S. Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy became inspired to write a book about eight other senators who, over the course of the Senate’s history, had displayed incredible courage and character in the face of insurmountable odds.
That book, “Profiles in Courage,” became a national bestseller and won for the future president the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in 1957.
Movies, television and novels have for centuries been extolling the tales of people facing difficult situations and displaying exceptional courage and perseverance in overcoming obstacles to reach success.
Few of these stories rival that of John Jordan, the graduate speaker at the Minnesota School of Business fall 2014 commencement exercise held at the Schwan Center in Blaine.
Not a single person present who heard John’s story was not deeply moved by his heartfelt tale of personal triumph over addiction and tragedy.
John’s story is not unlike many adult learners who reenter college later in life. Their initial exposure to higher education frequently results in preoccupation with social and extracurricular activities, which, more often than not, results in poor academic performance and eventual disinterest in attainment of a college degree.
John told the audience how, at another university, his nickname was “Belushi,” a reference to the similarities of the hard-partying character that actor portrayed in the movie “Animal House.” After a few years John dropped out of college, but that behavior stuck around.
Eventually, John found that he had a full-blown addiction to alcohol. And while he was a “functional alcoholic,” he spent several years wrestling with the side effects of his disease. After a few attempts at rehabilitation, John finally achieved sobriety through a dedicated adherence to a 12-step program.
Once his personal demons were under control, life dealt him another low blow as his 14-year-old son, the light of his life, was tragically taken from him and his wife.
Then, John decided to enroll at the Minnesota School of Business to complete his bachelor’s degree.
John found the strength of character and fortitude to finish, and on Dec. 19, 2014, at 50 years of age, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
John Jordan is my new hero, as he represents my definition of a “profile in courage.” Not just because of his story of personal triumph over tragedy, but because of his incredible courage at being willing to stand before several hundred strangers and freely tell the story.
Everybody has what I like to call a “back story,” some part of their life where things did not go well, sometimes caused by external events and sometimes self-inflicted. What sets John, and other successful people, apart is that no matter what odds he faced, regardless of how many times things did not work out how the way he wanted, he always got back up after life knocked him down.
“Ordinary people . . . [become] extraordinary through their persevering faith in the face of adversity.” (McCartney, 2009, p243)
Unquestionably, the courage and deep determination displayed over a lifetime by John Jordan to overcome any level of setbacks and obstacles is best characterized by those two words—perseverance and faith.
A story like John’s should serve as inspiration to all of us—a REAL profile in courage right here in Plymouth. Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!