John Reaves, a good friend of mine, raised his family
just across the street from Paul and Ruby Johnson in
the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. The Johnsons enjoyed
watching five children grow up in their house.
Michael, now the most famous of their children,
brought home gold medals in the 200 meter and 400
meter races with big wins at the recently completed
Olympics in Atlanta. His world record mark in the 200
meter amazed even the most seasoned track fans.
Not long ago,
Smokey told me that Michaels
success didnt come easy. While a student at
Skyline High School, Michael Johnson lost races on a
regular basis to another young man from another
Dallas high school. No matter how hard Michael
worked, the other kid always found a way to win.
Smokey told me that everyone in
Dallas who followed track and field thought the other
kid would end up in the Olympics. In 1988, he pulled
a quadriceps and missed the entire outdoor season.
Food poisoning two weeks before the 1992 Olympics in
Barcelona prevented him from making the 200 meter
Today Michael Johnson
enjoys hero status across the nation and around the
world. He faced and overcame all the disappointments
to stay on course to his goal.
How do we explain an
overcoming life like Michael
Johnson's? Smokey is certain he
you'll see five cars parked in front of the Johnson
home. All the children come back to celebrate
together", Smokey reports.
Michael is who he is today because of the
kind if mother and father he had and because the
family is strong and stable. Or as sportswriter
Steve Wulf noted before the Olympic games,
one of the reasons Johnson flies
faster than anyone else is that he is so well
grounded. (Time, Special Edition, Summer 1996,
If you were fortunate
enough to catch one of Michael's Olympic victories,
you probably saw his mother and father beaming with
pride as they celebrated his victory. And you likely
caught a glimpse of his love for and gratitude to
both of them. Michael and his four siblings all
graduated from college. All five reflect the
strength, the values and the honor if their parents.
As a married person or as
a parent, the next time you catch yourself trying to
decide what is really important in life, remember
Michael Johnson. Dont remember him only for his
medals. Remember him for his foundation: a stable
home built by a man and woman who understand what
life is all about.