When he re-visited ground zero recently, Boone’s attention was caught by a quote scrawled on a building in red, white and blue paint that read: "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart."
The attacks of Sept. 11 stunned America, but could never diminish Americans’ resolve or spirit, Boone told a crowd of more than 200 students who packed Whitaker Lab on March 25.
"We, as a nation, will continue to move forward with the same zeal and resolve that no one can equal in this world. There is one anthem that we need to teach the world: There is nothing dumber than betting against Americans. It hadn’t succeeded in 1776 and it isn’t going to succeed now."
Boone also spoke about the current war. "Long before this war with Iraq, we have had conflicts, wars and depressions. We have had them all. Over and over, we have always been able to survive and thrive through it all."
His advice for students: "Stay in school. Work your can off and become senior managers in our large companies. That’s what you can do to help in this war."
Boone also spoke about diversity, teamwork, and the struggles he faced as a black football coach during the segregation era in Virginia. He urged the students to dedicate themselves to "honor, respect and a true commitment to increase diversity. Find leadership among us and therefore learn to trust the soul of an individual, rather than what they look like."
Remember the Titans was set in a time when America was dismantling the practice of segregation. And Boone was right in the midst of the battle for equality. He became coach of the newly integrated T.C. Williams High School Titans in Alexandria, Va. in 1971, and his players were no strangers to adversity. Boone is credited with breaking down the barriers and uniting the racially divided team, leading it to a state football championship.
"When you, as a team, develop one heartbeat, you throw out the ‘I’ mentality and replace it with ‘we’," said Boone.
Boone opened the evening with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous actor who portrayed him in the movie. "I heard someone put the word out that Denzel Washington was coming to Lehigh," Boone said, to appreciative laughter. "I am truly sorry that Denzel couldn’t be with us tonight, but please don’t get up and leave on me."
No one did.
--Y. Sarah Suh