“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Horace Mann
In my early years I was handed down a pretty powerful concept: One day your life will review in a flash before your eyes . . . make sure it’s worth watching. We were encouraged to pursue ideas of personal responsibility and accountability. Our mom even gathered us around her in the evenings and read to us stories of character growth and development. We were expected to make the days of our lives count for something good.
Because our mom was a school teacher and principal for most of her life, we heard about another educator named Horace Mann. Some of the effects the man had on standardized education were controversial. But over all, he left an indelible imprint on the American educational system that was positive and enduring. Horace Mann was born May 4, 1796, in Massachusetts. His frugal, rural upbringing taught Horace characteristics of self-reliance and independence. Between the years of ten to twenty, Horace had no more than six weeks' schooling during any year. But he took advantage of the new, local libraries. Eventually, he graduated from Brown University, went on to law school and was admitted to the Massachusetts legal bar.
Mann became involved in Massachusetts politics and the development of the state’s public school system. At the time, American educators were fascinated by German educational trends. In 1843, Mann traveled to Germany to observe their educational system. Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the "Prussian model" adopted, arguing that universal public education was the best way to turn the nation's unruly children into disciplined and judicious citizens.
Building a person's character, Horace felt, was just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. By instilling values such as obedience to authority, promptness in attendance, and organizing time according to bell-ringing helped students prepare for future employment. He also developed the “normal schools” that specialized in training teachers. Most historians treat Mann as one of the most important and beneficial influences of educational reform in early America. He died while serving as president of Antioch College. He certainly lived out his own admonition to win some victory for humanity before you die and if his life did indeed flashed before his eyes before he died, his life was certainly worth watching!
In the city of Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria, Project C.U.R.E. became involved in an educational and humanitarian opportunity to win a victory for humanity that could not be ignored. Honorable Ike Ibe, the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, traveled from Washington, DC to Denver, Colorado, in 2003. The trip was to specifically request help from Project C.U.R.E. In 2000, King Eze A.N. Onyeka had already made me a Royal African Chief, “Chief Uzoma of Nkume People,” at a ceremony in Nigeria. Now, the country needed help. “We desperately need to relocate the university medical teaching hospital to Owerri, in Imo State. We have enough resources to build the buildings, but we have no way of furnishing the facility with beds, medical equipment, or supplies. We simply need everything to put inside a teaching hospital! Will you please help us?”
After assessing the request, Project C.U.R.E. agreed to help them. Over the months, we processed and shipped nearly eight million dollars’ worth of desperately needed medical goods to the new University Teaching Hospital in Owerri. A huge miracle was taking place. In the late summer, I received word from Ambassador Ike Ibe that I should make plans to return to Owerri on November 30, 2004, for the grand celebration and commissioning of the beautiful, new hospital. Everyone who was important in that area of Africa would be attending. The president of Nigeria would be there, as would his cabinet, the governors, the university officials, and the tribal kings and royal chiefs. I would need to bring my royal chief regalia and be prepared to celebrate a modern miracle.
I arrived in Lagos and was flown to Port Harcourt, then escorted by car to the city of Owerri, in Imo State. The evening before the day of celebration, the president of Nigeria hosted a lovely dinner at the hotel ballroom. The next morning my hosts arranged for me to view the new teaching hospital by myself. They escorted me through the front doors and into the beautiful reception rooms and down each hallway of the hospital. They were afraid that if they made me wait until the president and his entourage and all the press toured the facility, they would not have time to personally show me and properly thank Project C.U.R.E. for the impossible miracle.
As I walked through each room and hallway, I was overwhelmed with emotion and a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude. Immediately, I began to spot pieces of medical equipment and shelves loaded with supplies that had once been in our Project C.U.R.E. warehouses in the U.S.
Examination tables, various diagnostic scopes, blood pressure equipment, needles, syringes, and wound care kits that had been carefully sorted and packed into large ocean-going cargo containers by Project C.U.R.E. volunteers now filled the offices and rooms of the out-patient department. The only mammography machine in that part of Africa had made it safely from Project C.U.R.E. in Nashville to Nigeria, and had already been installed by bio-med technicians. The large x-ray machine had already been installed and the portable x-ray machine was proudly displayed in the hallway leading to the operating rooms.
I recognized the beds, the gurneys, the EKG machines, the defibrillators, the baby cribs and incubators, and all the items in the operating theaters. Everything had come from Project C.U.R.E. You can only imagine how terribly excited the doctors were when I came to their departments to share the moment with them.
The nurses were in their best starched outfits and busily scampering around making sure everything would be perfect for the tour of the Nigerian president and the governor of Imo State. It was an unbelievable day of history and importance for the people of Imo State. They all knew as of Tuesday, November 30, 2004 that their hospital would be judged as one of the finest teaching hospitals in Africa. They proudly declared, “This now is the finest medical facility in Imo State and one of the best in Nigeria because of Project C.U.R.E.”
We didn’t have to be ashamed. Project C.U.R.E. had not waited for some other day to win a victory for humanity. That teaching hospital would not only be the venue for saving thousands of lives in the next twenty years, but well trained doctors and nurses would go out from there to clinics and hospitals all over Africa to give health and hope to needy people.
I stood there, and through the tears that filled my eyes, just that short portion of my life flashed before me . . . and it was well worth watching!