The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV, but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but who guard the nation on ships and in submarines and are anonymous as they live and as they die.
There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament. The police
men and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if
they will return alive. The orderlies and paramedics who bring in
people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery.
The teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for
autistic children. The kind men and women who work in hospices and in
cancer wards . . . all of these are stars, and so are the teachers and
social workers who cast their mortal spans into the struggle to make
something of our troubled youth. Or, think of each and every fireman who
was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center to rescue men and
women coming down as the towers collapsed, and you have my idea of a
There are a few rules I have learned to keep my sanity, and I just
want to say them here to help you keep your sanity and keep you in the
running for stardom. The main one is that we are puny, insignificant
creatures. We live as God directs that we live. We are not responsible
for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not
God is real, not a fiction, but real—and when we turn over our lives
to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for
ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as
the directors of the movie of our lives and allow God to be the
director. When we trust in God instead of in our own frail selves, we
triumph; and when we try to control events, we suffer. When we try to do
God’s will, we are stars. When we do our own will, it is pathetic.
Or, I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be
as great an actor as Olivier, or even close . . . or as good a comic as
Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard, or even close . . . or as
good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman, or even close . . . or as
good a writer as Fitzgerald, or even remotely close. But I could be a
devoted father to my son and husband to my wife and, above all, a good
son to the parents who had done so much for me. And this became my main
task in life. I did it moderately well with my son and pretty well with
my wife, but well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I
cared for them and paid attention to them in their declining years. I
stayed with my father (and my sister did, too) as he got sick, went in extremis,
and then into a coma—and then entered immortality with my sister and me
reading him the Psalms. And this was the only point at which my life
touches the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New
York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only life
that matters, and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life that
God has devolved upon me, to help others God has placed in my path.
This is my highest and best use as a human.
As so many of you know, I am an avid Bush fan and a Republican. But I
think that the best guidance on living my life I ever got was from the
inauguration speech of John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in January of 1961.
On a very cold and bright day in Washington, he said words that should
be the wisdom that can make any of us into stars: “With a good
conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our
deeds, let us go forth . . . asking His blessing and His help, but
knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Or, as I like to say, the work that we ask God to do is the work He asks us to do.