[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]
While Kent Keith was born in New York, he moved around a lot because of his father’s work in the US military. By the time he was in high school, he was in Hawaii and had just graduated from Roosevelt high school. He always expressed an interest in various grass roots movements focused on improving social justice. He even organized groups to support high school activists even after becoming a student at Harvard University.
He wanted to motivate younger people who were disappointed and discouraged because they viewed the social system as too complex. He continued to organize motivational speakers to come to these groups in order to speak directly to the youth by using “their” language. He even published a small booklet distributed throughout several local high schools. Some school principals helped disseminate his booklets to students. It is almost 50 years ago when Kent gained fame as a prominent young leader.
He continued his studies at Oxford University in England and became an attorney soon after. He also traveled to Japan to study both the language and culture. These experiences made him both an established educator and an administrative official.
Many years later, Dr. Keith came back to Hawaii to attend a gathering. The organizer of the event read out a short poem paying tribute to Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who had passed away weeks before the event. Participants of the event listened to the poem and shared a moment of silence. The organizer explained that the poem was taken from the wall of the Children’s Home in Calcutta. Apparently volunteers under Mother Teresa from all over the world looked at the poem as a guide for their daily charitable activities. They even believed that the author of the poem was Mother Teresa herself.
Dr. Keith was surprised to hear the poem. This was the poem that he wrote for the second chapter of the small booklet he gave to high school activists. He titled it after The Ten Commandments and called it the Paradoxical Commandments. For more than 30 years, the poem was passed on from person to person traveling all over the globe, even to Mother Teresa herself. This happened during a time when Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter was nonexistent.
Student activities in the late 60’s have evolved leading into the 70’s. While not many people may have appreciated the social justice movements, many of those who participated “did it anyway”. The messages from young Kent have been translated into 70 different languages worldwide. When Mother Teresa said “do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person”, she was alluding to someone who held the same courage as young Kent.
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001
Young Leader Kent, when he was a college student