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On Their Shoulders: Honoring the African American Contributions to Patrick Henry and America
Mr. Syid Abdullah (Father of Mr. Yusuf Abdullah) sailing on the USS Providence during the Vietnam War

We're trying to make Black History Month stretch over an entire year. We invite all staff and students to take a moment and write the answers to these simple questions:

  • Who in your family, community, and our country has inspired, motivated, and lifted your spirits to help you become a better person? 
  • What actions did they take that made you and the world a better place to live? 
  • As you stand on their shoulders what will YOU do to inspire others and also make the world a better place to live?

A great place to look for community and national leaders is at the African American Registry

Three Guiding Lights in My Life by Murray


My earliest memories are of my father, John Murray, a funny man who sang to me, played ball with me, and loved me.  He was the only male lay teacher/coach at St. Mary's School in Storm Lake, Iowa.  As a result many of my friends and I aspired to be like my dad.  I actually went the full route, attending the same college as him (University of St. Thomas), becoming a social studies teacher like him and dabbling a bit as a coach like him. Occasionally I slip on a suit coat that he wore some 45 years ago and that simple gesture often gives me strength and the fortitude to keep on going in my own life as a teacher. 

John Murray, Superman at Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa, a favorite vacation haunt of my family

 My grandfather Joe McTigue was a storyteller who was a simple, kind and pious man.  Throughout my childhood he told me stories about being a cowboy in northwest Iowa and then would look at me and say, "Oh, you're never going to remember me or my stories when I'm gone."  He was wrong.  Though he died in 1973 I remember both him and his stories--a day doesn't pass that I don't stop and think of him and share an antidote about that gentleman. I owe my preparation for life after death to my grandfather Joe McTigue.

In the summer of 1980 as a sophomore on vacation from college I picked up the Burlington Iowa Hawk-Eye and read a Dear Abby story about a waitress who wanted advice on how to get back at cruel people that she served in her diner.  Abby told her to try returning cruelty with kindness because any other way would entangle her in a loop of violence that she couldn't escape, nor find satisfaction in. Abby recommended that the waitress read Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's

John Murray wedding day John Murray and son, Tom John Murray, Superman at Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa, a favorite vacation haunt of my family Joe McTigue
classic book, Strength to Love.

The next day I located that book and didn't put it back down again until I read it cover to cover. As a result I learned how to break cycles of violence and why it was my responsibility to teach others how to break the lock on the dungeons of ignorance that imprisoned them.

Then I read another King classic, Why We Can't Wait, which was a powerful rationale for stopping evil and advancing civil rights immediately--regardless of the politics of a situation.  Dr. King's Measure of a Man forced me to look at the concepts of real manhood, very often spiritual, which were in contrast to the measures that society established for manhood.

The Trumpet of Conscience gave me courage to let my conscience speak out and act on my convictions.  Where Do We go From Here: Chaos or Community provided me with a blueprint for the type of society that I wanted to build.  I can't say it enough:  I don't believe that people can know the brilliance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. unless they open up one of his great works and and let the beauty of his words run through them.  I think it's impossible to have that experience and not have it change your life.  I still stop anything that I'm doing to read about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and try to practice his strategies for nonviolent living.

I have had the good fortune to have these three strong men in my life who guided me, and continue to guide me throughout my life.  I believe that I am bound to share their lessons with others and live a life that teaches those lessons in the truest way possible, by example.