Aloha Friday: Dream The Impossible Dream

We received this personal submission and due to the extraordinary challenges all of us have faced over the past year, the board at Waikiki Whisperer felt this inspirational message should be added to our pages. Hope this history awakens renewed spirit and dreams in you.

Living in Pursuit of The Impossible Dream

The year was 1971. I was in my 9th grade year in a small, rural town in southeastern Idaho. Had grown up inspired by the words of John Kennedy: Ask not what this country can do for you; ask what you can do for this country.

I watched on a small, black & white TV the success of our nation, as we first in human history touched down on the surface of the moon. I felt pains of horror watching nightly news broadcasts beamed back from Vietnam. Neighborhood boys served. My country might soon call me.

My father, a basketball coach and high school administrator, had given me a cassette tape with a motivational song that was a favorite of one of his athletes. Bill Green had been the star quarterback on the Highland High School Rams championship football team; starting point guard on the championship basketball team. As he was also student body president, I watched him give the commencement address at his class graduation.

My father told me young Bill Green listened to this song before every game or in preparation for important school and life events. It was a rendition of The Impossible Dream by Andy Williams, written by Leigh Mitch / Darion Joseph.

To dream the impossible dream
 To fight the unbeatable foe
 To bear with unbearable sorrow
 To run where the brave dare not go
 To right the unrightable wrong
 To be better far than you are
 To try when your arms are too weary
 To reach the unreachable star
 This is my quest, to follow that star
 No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
 To be willing to give when there's no more to give
 To be willing to die so that honour and justice may live
 And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest
 That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I'm laid to my rest
 And the world will be better for this
 That one man, scorned and covered with scars
 Still strove with his last ounce of courage
 To reach the unreachable star

Played that song frequently. When I felt tired, hopeless, confused or that things were not working out; when I thought a class or assignment was too difficult; or when the bigger, faster and older guys were beating me at my game … I found a quiet place, turned down the lights, and listened to the words of encouragement.

I was 14 years-of-age at the time. Had grown too quickly, standing about 6’2 with long, spindly legs. Was awkward, extremely skinny, and not well-coordinated. I was like a goofy Labrador puppy that needed time to mature into his body.

However, I demonstrated prowess on the athletic field. My father had been a decent collegiate scholarship athlete and had coached me along with his players. Both my parents were educators and demanded I was always a dedicated and disciplined student.

Kevin England, Mayor of Chubbuck, Idaho and lifetime teammate
Kevin England, Mayor of Chubbuck, Idaho and lifetime teammate

We won the Junior High city championships that year in football. I started both on offense and defense, but frankly sucked! Along with lifetime friend and teammate, Kevin England (current mayor of Chubbuck, Idaho), we won the city championship in basketball where we both were leading players. And, I won the city championship in Track & Field high hurdles, due primarily to my long, long legs.

After one of our city basketball games, Bill Green came up to congratulate me. I was star struck and didn’t know what do say, “Ah shucks, thanks Mr. Green.” He laughed … “call me Bill. Let’s play ball sometime.” I talked with my dad about him all evening! I kept listening to his inspirational song.

Things changed for me over the summer. I grew another three inches, put on about 20lbs of muscle, and the Lab puppy was growing into a young man.

Highland High School Rams 1972-73. Head Coach Ron Kress (left), Assistant Coach Jim Koetter
Highland High School Rams 1972-73. Head Coach Ron Kress (left), Assistant Coach Jim Koetter

The school selected me to be the first sophomore in history to be promoted to varsity. Started every game and averaged 18 points. We were led by a transfer from the Lakota Nation in South Dakota, #14 Byron In The Woods. We took second in the state tournament that year. I listened to Bill Green’s inspirational song before every game.

Graduated May 1975. A state championship eluded me, as we finished 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in my three years. I set a school scoring record that lasted 40 years. Was a straight-A student, National Honor Society scholar, academic and athletic All-American, and served as Sophomore Class president, student body president as a junior, and Senior Class president my final year. I was still playing Bill Green’s favorite song and pursuing The Impossible Dream.

My father had served in the Navy during the Korean War. As the conflict in Vietnam dominated much of my young life, I was interested in serving. I earned an appointment to Air Force Academy from Idaho’s U.S. Senator Frank Church.

Airborne Training, Fort Benning, GA. Earning blood wings.
Airborne Training, Fort Benning, GA. Earning “blood wings.”

I learned I was too tall to fly fighter jets, so turned down the offer and accepted a basketball scholarship to our state university. As a starting guard my sophomore year, we won our conference championship, advanced deep into NCAA March Madness, and set our school’s all-time winning record. By the time I graduated, I was the program’s career assist leader. Still hadn’t forgotten my role model Bill Green and his inspirational song.

In the mid-90s, a friend, Jenny Lang Ping, asked me to assist coaching her home country’s women’s volleyball team. China was 10th in world rankings at the time. She didn’t believe they could go far, but wanted to try. I introduced her to Bill Green’s favorite song. I said, “We can do it.” Jenny laughed, “You’re over confident.”

We played for gold in Atlanta ’96 and took home the Silver Medal. I played Bill Green’s inspirational song before the match.

Chinese National Volleyball Team, circa 1995, in Oahu, HI. Head Coach Jenny Lang Ping (3rd from left sitting)
Chinese National Volleyball Team, circa 1995, in O’ahu, HI. Head Coach Jenny Lang Ping (3rd from left sitting)

The long life of sport and training in the military left my body in a physical mess. I’ve needed many surgeries and remain partially disabled at this time. Have fond memories of 6:00 AM wind sprint drills, hundreds of jumping and strengthening exercises, and pushing my body to the maximum red-line. Have no regrets, but the constant pain reminds me of the abusive history.

Five Time Gold Medal Winner, Jenny Lang Ping, Working Rehab Post Surgery. Athletes and Veterans suffer much pain.
Five Time Gold Medal Winner, Jenny Lang Ping, working rehab post surgery. Athletes and Veterans suffer much pain.

A couple years ago, I was recruited by one of the most prestigious companies in the Hawaiian Islands. Great opportunity. Not only was this a stellar company, my manager was the BEST of my career. My professional colleagues were the most talented, dedicated, proficient and kind people I had ever met. It was both an honor and blessing to serve with them. To me, I had “reached the unreachable star.”

At the 90-day review, my manager wrote:

YOU have been a great asset to our team and it is your personality and humble nature that makes all of us so comfortable working together. We have had contractors on the DBA team before, but never with the synergy and positive energy that you bring with you. I believe you have had the greatest influence in our success and glad that we selected the right contractor. You have definitely made your mark here and have set the bar very high for future contractors!
 
Thank you for being you…keep doing what you do…keep that good karma flowing!

Three months later, the company removed me. Confusion about my pain medication. As a public health professional, I avoid opioids. They’re addictive and dangerous. I use a more safe option: medical cannabis. Company rules seemed clear:

Company published substance use policy
Company published substance use policy

State law legalized medical cannabis in 2000 and further extended authorization in 2015: §329-125.5 Medical cannabis patient and caregiver protections. Someone apparently didn’t get the memo.

(b)  For the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants, a registered qualifying patient's use of cannabis in compliance with this part shall be considered the equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician and shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance or otherwise disqualify a registered qualifying patient from medical care.

Imagine you come home from a strenuous, physically-demanding day. Your body hurts. With dinner you take a couple Tylenol your doctor prescribed. Tomorrow you lose your job. That’s the reality cannabis patients face.

Hawai’i U.S. Senator Brian Schatz just re-introduced the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. His research team claims, “Veterans are dying due to medical cannabis prohibition.” There are over 31,000+ patients in Hawai’i who need this medication and who are blocked from working — many are Vets. [SEE Senator Brian Schatz Seeks Medical Cannabis for Vets]

Over five surgeries and still partially disabled with much chronic pain.
Over five surgeries and still partially disabled with much chronic pain.

After termination from employment, I committed to changing corporate policy and state law. A close friend and colleague wrote to me, “Seems like you’re trying to move a mountain.” Didn’t have an opportunity to share Bill Green’s song with him. Guess he’s correct, I am hoping to “right the unrightable wrong … no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.”

Although my U.S. Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, refused to help me, although local politicians ignore us, we continue ‘imi pono — to strive for righteousness.

And maybe, just maybe, in the glorious land of the United States of America, the dream remains alive: that all of us can “run where the brave dare not go”; that we still trust we can “fight the unbeatable foe”; and possibly, if necessary, that we are “willing to die so that honour and justice may live.”

And the world will be better for this; that one man, scorned and covered with scars;

Still strove with his last ounce of courage; to reach the unreachable star.

I leave you with my favorite rendition of The Impossible Dream, as sung by Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), USMC. Special tribute to my father and Bill Green. Thank you for encouraging me to reach for the unreachable star.

Do you have the COURAGE to reach for The Unreachable Star?

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