DETROIT – Today, we gather as a country and celebrate the events surrounding July 4, 1776 -- the day we officially declared our independence from British tyranny.
Gaining our independence involved sacrifice and hardship, and the spirit with which we fought and persevered, is legendary. And this is what we think about on the Fourth of July.
However, there's another anniversary to think about today.
The date was July 4, 1939.
Any idea what happened seventy-five years ago today? It was Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. He had just learned the news that he had the incurable, terminal illness that now bears his name …Lou Gehrig's Disease, also known as ALS. It robbed him of his life when he was in the prime of life. He was one of the greatest baseball players in history, playing on one of baseball's most historic teams ever.
If anybody had a reason to be bitter and mad at the world, Lou Gehrig did. He did not like having the spotlight on him, but he was being honored, and he had to say something before a packed Yankee Stadium, surrounded by fans and baseball legends.
So, after speeches and presentations, Gehrig stepped up to the microphone, paused, and delivered these remarks:
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career to associate with them for even one day?
Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert - also the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow - to have spent the next nine years with that wonderful little fellow Miller Huggins - then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology - the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy. Sure, I'm lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift, that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that's something.
When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter, that's something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that's the finest I know.
So, I close in saying, that I might have had a tough break - but I have an awful lot to live for.
Gehrig, having just been given a death sentence, only called his situation a tough break, and declared himself the luckiest man alive. There's a lot we can learn from this man and his speech.
We all have our challenges. For me, it was a difficult cancer battle back in 1989. For others, it may be the loss of a job. Or a divorce. Or the death of somebody close.
Don't let your challenges overwhelm you. There's a lot to be thankful for or, as this meteorologist likes to say, there's a silver lining in every cloud. Gehrig said just as much seventy-five years ago today.
I wish you a most enjoyable holiday, one filled with relaxation, family and friends.