As we enter the New Year of 2005, I’ve been able to spend some time reflecting on the year that was and on the people who over the years caused me to cling to my stubborn belief that one person can make a difference.
For myself one person stands out, above all the rest, as having made the biggest difference in my life - my high school best friend, and fellow member of my high school track team, Marc Cobb.
In high school Marc was a tall thin rail, an African American kid living in Watts, in South Central, Los Angeles. We had gone to the same Junior High School, taken drafting classes together (Marc wanted to be an architect) and when we got to the same High School Marc talked me into going out for the track team with him. For four years we would run the same grueling workouts together – and run in the same races together.
Then we went on to different colleges, and I became a political nomad, and somehow we lost track of each other.
Nearly 25 years after losing contact with Marc I was writing my book, and there was no way I could leave him out of it – his impact on me had been too important.
I wrote about how my mom had raised 5 kids on her own, about how no one in my family had ever talked about college, let alone planned on going, until the day I saddled up next to Marc in the school quad, and asked what he was doing filling out all those papers he had on his lap.
“College” he said.
When I asked him what an S.A.T. was (the Scholastic Aptitude Test taken to get into to college) he practically fell over in disbelief that I did not know. Well Marc made me sign up for the test, he tutored me to get ready for it, made sure I was there to take it, and helped me fill out all my college application forms. For the first time ever, a Trippi was going to go to college. And all these years later I know it only happened because Marc Cobb was one person who made a difference.
I wrote in the acknowledgement section of my book “Marc Cobb, wherever you are, you changed my life. We ran our hearts out on that old square track in high school – and a part of you has been running just off my shoulder ever since.”
So call it fate – but a few weeks ago I was on my way to Los Angeles to participate in a conference of the Online News Association representing MSNBC, and on the very same night – just one block away at a different hotel my high school reunion was being held.
Even though I had never gone to my high school reunion before, I could not wait to get done speaking at the ONA conference and then high tail it over to my reunion in hopes of seeing Marc.
As I entered the reunion I noticed a framed picture.
It was a picture of Marc Cobb, still flashing that engagingly hip smile of his and underneath the picture were the words “In Loving Memory.” Marc, it had turned out, had passed away after running a race in Sacramento, California some years ago.
I was crushed by the news for days afterwards. But as I started to reflect on my own wild ride over the past few years, I realized that the mistakes I made (and there were plenty) were mine alone – but any good I had done, any difference I had made was in large part due to Marc and so many like him.
So I am not going to do anything corny now like dedicate 2005 to Marc Cobb. But my New Year’s resolution will be -- one person can make a difference. Marc Cobb proved that’s true. Let it be true of all of us in 2005.
Happy New Years Everyone.
Joe Trippi is a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and is the author of the recent book “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything.”
Comments? E-mail JTrippi@MSNBC.com
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