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Saying Goodbye To The Great Teachers

From Lee Jay Bermans’Eye On Conflict Blog

John R. Wooden

Just one week ago, members of the mediation community gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate the life of our dear friend and mentor Richard Millen (see Mediation World Loses a Patriarch). My friend Phyllis Pollack wrote a wonderful summary of that night in her blog.

Today, we lost the great teacher and coach John R. Wooden, long time and legendary UCLA basketball coach.

I’m wondering with these teachers now gone, will we continue to follow their lessons? I’m wondering with them now gone, the Dalai Lama turning 75 and Nelson Mandella turning 92 next month, I’m wondering who will be our next great teachers? Who will walk the talk and live a life that embodies both greatness and goodness?

Wondering this makes me proud to have been in the company of Ken Cloke last week. Ken was a co-founder of Mediators Beyond Borders and has published prolifically. Ken is a great teacher who lives a life of compassion and grace. Erica Ariel Fox is another. She founded the Global Negotiation Insight Institute and is working on her first book. I see many other great mediator friends doing incredible work – teaching conflict resolution skills in prisons, or to children. Most of them are growing and preparing into our next great generation of teachers.

Sports might offer us Coach K at Duke basketball or Phil Jackson and his blend of Native American, Zen and Christian learnings, known for giving his multi-millionaire players books on philosophy, spirituality and balance.

I don’t think we’re going to see teachers of the caliber of Richard Millen and John Wooden any time soon. They had so much in common, not the least of which was, to quote Kareen Abdul Jabbar on Coach Wooden, “he sent a lot of good people into this world.”

Coach Wooden had said that his proudest accomplishment as a player was being named Scholar Athlete of the Year at Purdue. Richard Millen, a humble young man from Tennessee became a Harvard Law graduate. The national college basketball players of the year (man and woman) receives the John R. Wooden Award; the Southern California Mediation Association’s peacemaker of the year receives the Cloke-Millen Award. Both men were selfless – Coach Wooden was paid $32,500 in his final year at UCLA in 1975; Richard Millen also made a small fraction of those mediators who he mentored. Coach lived by, “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of being.” While Richard Millen would agree, perhaps his favorite was, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves’.”

Who will lead us next? Who will be our next great teacher? Who will be worthy of us learning from? Will it be you?

                        author

Lee Jay Berman

Lee Jay Berman is a mediator based in Los Angeles. He founded the American Institute of Mediation in 2009, after serving as Director of Pepperdine's flagship Mediating the Litigated Case program from 2002-2009.  MORE >

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