Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Not About You


As some of you know, I'm on the nominating committee for Reading Across Rhode Island (RARI). This year I was so please when the committee chose Rhode Island native, Craig Mullaney's amazing memoir The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education. When I saw this book on the list of nominated books my immediate reaction was that I had no interest in reading a "war book" and would wait to see if was eliminated in early discussions before committing to reading it. During our first session, another member of the group stated that she had the read book (even though she was sure she wouldn't be interested) and that it was fabulous. That got me curious. I decided to read it before our next meeting. And it made a very positive impression on me. At our next meeting there were several of us who had read the book and we all gushed about what a wonderful choice it would be for RARI. The rest is history.

This past weekend was the official celebration for The Unforgiving Minute. I had the great fortune of being invited to attend a reception for Mullaney on Friday night at his alma mater, Bishop Hendricken High School (a Catholic HS for boys). It was an extremely informal affair and I had a chance to talk briefly with him and have him sign my book. I told him how much I enjoyed his book and that I was strong supporter of it as our RARI selection. He was very gracious and humble. Then on Saturday I attended RARI's culminating event, the May Breakfast, in which Mullaney appeared and gave a talk to 425 enthusiastic readers. I attended the event with 10 members from my two book clubs. Part of the May Breakfast is also a food drive for a local pantry and participants are encouraged to bring canned goods and use them to create a centerpiece for their table. This year one of the women from my library book club, Donna, created a centerpiece that was reminiscent of one of the photographs from the book. She finished setting it up before the breakfast officially began and it immediately caught Mullaney's eye. He came right over to our table and spent the next 20 minutes talking to Donna, her husband Joe and the other members of our group. He even graciously agreed to pose for photos. It was very exciting. In the four years that I have been attending these events, no author has ever come into the crowd to visit with participants! We were all thrilled.




He then went on to give a very moving talk about the lessons he learned during his years at West Point, Ranger School, and at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He also explained to us how those lessons prepared him to lead a platoon in Afghanistan. He spoke emotionally about the deep toll the loss of one of his men had on him and stated that writing the book was really his letter to that young man's parents. This was the first time I have been moved to tears at a RARI breakfast. He also spoke eloquently of personal responsibility, responsibility for others and responsibility to our communities. He summed up this sense of responsibility when he remembered the words of one of the men who trained him at Ranger School - "It's not about you". Mullaney related to us how the full force of those words hit him when he was told of the final words uttered by the soldier in his platoon as he lay dying. Private O'Neill asked, "How are the other guys?" It's not about you. Quite a powerful message.

7 comments:

Sandy said...

Of all the breakfasts to miss!! It sounds like a wonderful event and a great choice for RARI. It's great that you are part of that decision every year.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

I'm noting the book in my Nook right now so I can download it later. What a sparkling review on the book and on the author. It's always so nice to know that the author is as wonderful as the book. I love a story which contains some philosophy. It's not about you, is one of the values I try to instill in my children and remember for myself as well. I'm really excited to read Mullaney's book.

Andrea (ace1028) said...

Oh wow. I will have to add this to my to-read list, as well. The end of that post choked me up a bit and I feel misty-eyed. Wow. Sounds like you had the honor of meeting an incredible individual.

Anita said...

Wow Pam, what a wonderful event. I admit, it's not one I would probably read either. I'll have to look it up. Thanks for sharing.

Karen Peterson said...

Sounds like an amazing experience. I'm definitely adding that book to my To-Read list.

I wish California had more programs like RARI. But considering how many people here can't read on an adult level at all, something like that would be hard to implement.

Cozy in Texas said...

Sounds like a thought provoking event. Thanks for sharing.
Ann

Star Forbis said...

My first thought would have been the same as yours. Glad to hear it wasn't right though.

 

Blog Design By Lindsey Joy Design © All Rights Reserved.