Books That Influence You – Be ye men of valor

I’ve had lots of interesting feedback on my blog post last week; the one where I interviewed Victoria Jones, one of our faculty members, about the book that most influenced her during her student days. During the week, Mark Lindell, another one of our “Fabulous Faculty” members and I were visiting over coffee about his literary influences.
I was very impressed. In getting to know Mark a little better, one of the things that I found out was that he and I shared a favorite author, and I thought I would share his thoughts with you, so here goes!
“When I was 16 years old I remember taking a great history class from Mr. Sussex. Since I spent the majority on my high school Fridays and Saturdays across the state of SD in Speech tournaments I was never able to get all of his lectures or group activities in class. But I remember one activity that he created just for me that he pulled from this book. The speech was called, “Be ye men of valor”. It was written by Winston Churchill as his first speech as Prime Minister of England and it speaks to the heart of every man in defending his country.
It was the beginning of the first Persian Gulf War. Like many of the boys my age (whose fathers were drafted into Vietnam), we wondered where our lives would be taking us if Saddam Hussein wasn’t stopped. Draft dodging and fleeing to Canada was talked about. Since my family had fought in wars all the way back to the Civil War, duty to one’s country was really the only option.
Since I wasn’t able to be in Mr. Sussex’s history class for a group activity on WWII, he asked that I read this speech and speak to the class of it while comparing and contrasting it to what was happening over in the Middle East.
Few speeches have every affected me greatly as this one. Years later, I still read the speech and use it as a motivator when I feel the need to be inspired. Not only is the speech pretty incredible, but I discovered something about Churchill that endeared it to me all the more. Churchill, like me, was born a stutterer.
I spent many hours in speech therapy in elementary school. When I was asked to read out loud in class my head would drop and I would barely be able to speak above the whisper. Another great teacher, Sr. Jane Schoenfelder, read along with me each and every day in 3rd grade. Instead of letting me off the hook, she engaged me “head on” and forced me to do articulation exercises at home and project so loudly that I thought other classrooms would need soundproofing. My troubles were not unlike Sir Winston’s.
I received a Master’s Degree in Communication Studies and Theatre. Now I teach others that communication is what unites us. Thanks to Mr. Sussex, I am now a student of history and thanks to Sr. Jane I know have the confidence and skills to speak in front of any group.
I still have the book that Mr. Sussex let me keep. I even took it with me when I did my tour in the Persian Gulf in 1997 while stationed at Prince Sultan AFB in Saudi Arabia. I would not be the teacher, student, worker, husband or father that I am without reading this book.
Like our librarian will tell you, one book can influence you in ways you can’t possible begin to imagine and shape you into becoming the person that you are today. It is my hope that my soon to be son or daughter will have a book in their life that they will carry near and dear to their heart.”
Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.’ –Winston Churchill

What book influenced you the most to start your professional education or career?