Wednesday, June 23, 2004
::: Tribute to A Real Hero :::
My heart was broken last night when I tuned in Larry King last night to watch his interview with Gene Hackman.
And Lo .... there was Mattie Stephanek,POET AND PEACEMAKER so I thought it was a split program with Mattie and Gene ... I have seen Mattie on Larry's show before and found him so courageous and so incredibly smart ... a child with insight into life that defies description.
I suppose I am like most of us who try to blog and read and try to keep up with what is happening in our world ... in other words, I always read while watching TV.
Finally, I looked up from being delighted by his poems and descriptions of his rich life to notice the interview was taped in Sept, 2002 ... and even later, I noticed the blurb at the bottom of the screen that said Mattie had lost his fight with Muscular Dystrophy yesterday at age 13.
In approximately one month, Mattie would have been fourteen, but to listen to his poetry, you would be shocked to learn of his chronological age. Mattie's poetry is the work of and old soul. Home schooled by his mom, who has serious teaching credentials, Mattie was already "in high school" and was attending a few courses at a local college.
Poet Hero -- Mattie Stephanek
When we first featured poet hero Mattie Stepanek on My Hero, he told us about his three wishes. The first was to publish a book of his poetry, the second was to meet his hero, former President Jimmy Carter, and the third was to appear in Oprah. We're happy to say that as of 2001 his three wishes had been granted. And then some...
On July 2001, VSP Books and Hyperion Books joined forces to publish Mattie's book of poems, Heartsongs. Not surprisingly, it has become a national bestseller. Hyperion then went the extra mile and signed Mattie to a three-book deal. As part of the deal, the publishers have released Mattie's second book, Journey through Heartsongs. His third book, Hope through Heartsongs, was released in April of 2002.
In September 2001 when Mattie was in the hospital, staff workers arranged for him to have a phone conversation with his hero, Jimmy Carter. According to those who witnessed the 15-minute chat, Mattie, whose selflessness is beyond reproach, talked to President Carter about problems in Bosnia and Africa, and not, as one would expect, about his own health complications. Incredibly, after speaking to Mattie, the former president decided to write the foreward to Mattie's second book, Journey through Heartsongs. A month later, Diane Sawyer and her staff at Good Morning America surprised Mattie with his first face to face meeting with President Carter on live TV.
On October 19, 2001, Mattie's third wish came true. Mattie was featured on Oprah and spoke with Winfrey about his books, his love for poetry and life, and his desire to be a peacemaker in the world. Oprah then read her favorite excerpts from Mattie's poetry and said, "I think that's so important, especially now, when everybody is feeling a sense of fear and having been terrorized, to look at what you have in your life and have a sense of gratitude and see the miracles in your life. And you, even though you're hooked up to all this equipment, and we had to plug you in during the commercial break, give you more oxygen, you still see miracles everyday in your life."
Reading through this site was one of the most uplifting experiences I have ever had.
I sincerely hope you will spend a little time with Mattie; read his incredible poetry. Mattie was a remarkable voice and peacemaker in a time of constant conflict. We will miss his bright smile and hope for our future.