by Kira McKeown
The Texas Conference for Women celebrated powerful women in November. By attending, I anticipated that I would be inspired by positive, achieving women and ideas, and I certainly was, but, I found my deepest inspiration through an atypical speaker.
Generally, the Conference showcases bright and successful people as speakers who have a wealth of inspirational new ideas and also provides access to a convention center full of cool stuff to buy. I was in awe of my uplifting surroundings, but I left the Conference with a humble heart and ready for action due in large part to speaker Marion Jones’ words.
It was the short speech by Marion Jones during lunch that got me really thinking, “How do you want to be remembered?” I found that funny since I vaguely remembered Marion Jones as the famous Olympian who had fallen from grace some years earlier because of lying about taking steroids during an Olympic performance. She came with a message of enlightenment borne of embarrassing failure and humble capitulation.
Oddly, Ms. Jones was never a big deal to me or anyone in my household, and I knew her purely from the excessive news stories about her at the time of her troubles. A 2007 article (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/21138883/) stated the following about her situation at the time:
“Friday marked a stunning fall from grace for the 31-year-old Jones, once the symbol for everything that was right about women in sports. She was powerful, captivating the country with the audacious goal of winning an unprecedented five gold medals at the Sydney Olympics. But she was beautiful and feminine, too, gracing the cover of Vogue with the poise of a supermodel.”
Ms. Jones responded in the article by saying, “It’s with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust,” The speech she gave at the Conference echoed these words, but they carried with them a new component. They carried with them a message of hope.
Ms. Jones reflected what she had learned since that unfortunate time in her life and after spending six months in prison. She told of an experience of growth and love and said that solitary confinement helped her “to be by herself,” which was something she had experienced very little of in her adult life. She gave glory to God and stated that she “made it by grace and faith.”
Ms. Jones’ chrysalis story asserted that “dealing with what we’ve done is the hardest part,” which really spoke to me. This idea rings true for me because I feel that we must first look at and acknowledge a need for change before we can evolve. Being in solitary confinement in prison would likely force one to look into a mirror, and Marion Jones apparently did not like what she saw. She therefore decided to make positive change as opposed to resorting to an angry victim mentality. The beautiful thing to me was that she gave the glory for her change to God – by “grace and faith.”
I understood very clearly that she had indeed changed when she said “life is about how you can give back.” This message is what made me start thinking about how I want to be remembered. In my mind, Ms. Jones wanted to be remembered for taking responsibility for her bad decisions and making a difference. By handing her enormous loss over to God, who turned her lies into truth, she can now be known for something other than the dark decisions of her past. Marion Jones made it clear that it was not what she had been or what she was becoming that was important but what she could do for others… and that is something worth remembering.