Opening Address to the 2016 National Gathering
By Angelus Kalen
I want to do something a little different to begin our gathering. I want to read you a quote that has meant much to me and will hopefully set the tone and theme of our gathering.
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
by Theodore Roosevelt
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Since our inception we have certainly met our fair share of critics – both from outside and in. There were those who said the world won’t take us seriously if we wear Jedi robes or that using a lightsaber was both impractical and childish. In the 2001 Jedi census phenomenon, people started to claim Jedi as a religion upon which the media had painted us to be a joke. This false representation led many to leave the Jedi Path. If that wasn’t bad enough, we had people from within our communities tear down each other. Members would fling insults and state that another isn’t being a Jedi. You aren’t exercising the right way. You are just an “armchair philosopher” or an “online Jedi”. Essentially people were saying that my education is better than yours.
How easily we forget the difficulty in choosing to walk the Path of the Jedi. We openly subject ourselves to critique and evaluation from our peers that we may learn. We find time in our already busy schedules to fill our minds with knowledge. We push our bodies to do more today than we could yesterday. In a society that focuses on the individual, we seek a connection to those around us and be part of something larger.
We ought to offer credit instead of criticism. We have Jedi who work through their physical limitations, learning a martial art or training through their fibromyalgia. We have Jedi, whom outsiders would see as brutes, show they are quite capable as mystics and scholars. The reverse is also true; we have Jedi whom others would think of only as a nerd or bookworm prove themselves as capable athletes. We have Jedi who were shy or commonly overlooked be given the opportunity to find their voice and become leaders and teachers in the community. These Jedi who take even one step on the Jedi Path are putting in more effort in their improvement than the rest of society.
And yes we will have our blunders and challenges. In fact, we have made it part of our culture though we call it “trials.” We have situations that test us and mentors who push us beyond our self-imposed limits. We want to make sure a Jedi has the physical fortitude, the emotional strength, the intellectual tenacity, the social graces, and the spiritual core to face anything. Success is not achieved easily. We will run into those walls. However, run into them enough and it is not we who fall, but those walls that do.
We persist because we can see beyond. We know there will be a time when we move from Padawan to Knight. We recognize that a meeting between two Jedi is the beginning of a thriving chapter. We acknowledge that our gathering of Jedi is actually part of a larger organization spanning the US.
We have already accomplished much. What was once one website has now become numerous forums, academies, and groups where people can learn to be Jedi. Once there was no textbooks, no training manuals, no autobiographies and now we have literature written by Jedi themselves. In 2002, a handful of Jedi came together to train and share knowledge. Now we have yearly national gatherings with over 30 participants and more gatherings springing up around the globe. We have moved offline in a way that census never could show daring to state to the world that Yes, we are Jedi.
Daring greatly is precisely what Jedi do. Jedi from Chicago dared to stop Multiple Sclerosis in its tracks and raised nearly $1000 for the National MS Society. Jedi from California dared to end abuse running a Spartan race and raising over $2000 for a Joyful Heart Foundation. While their present is uncertain, the Jedi from Colorado dared to plan for their future. Being the youngest group to form, Jedi from Indiana dared to be the first to say “Yes, we are a chapter of the Jedi Federation,” striving to be a shining example. Even now each of you have dared to come to this national gathering hosted by the Jedi Federation. For some it is a financial hardship, others a time constraint. Yet, you see the value in this community, a group that pushes each of us to be better. I am fortunate to stand amongst you. I am not with those who do nothing not knowing victory nor defeat. You choose to dare and do so daring greatly.