A Mother and her Two Daughters

23 May 2010

Those Who Inspire and Give Hope

I’ve spent the last couple of days focusing on INSPIRATION and those that inspire.  Let me explain. 

“Inspiration” is a word that no one is shy of using.  While we hear it used often, the very definition of “inspiration” is like a fingerprint – unique and different for every person.  Some define it as divine guidance, a kind of spiritual magic that some seek to believe in.  Others believe it to be an observation that arouses a particular emotion or action.  Most of us agree that inspiration is an exciting feeling we get when our mind is opened, our soul is moved and we discover purpose for our destiny.

Is inspiration something we do, or see, or hear, taste or smell?  Again, it ‘s different for all of us.  The musical works of Chopin inspired Franz Liszt.  And it was Bo Diddley who inspired Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Claude Monet was less inspired by other artists, his masterful works more inspired by the lilies in his own garden along with the color of the light changing throughout the day.  It was Booker T. Washington and Mahatma Gandhi that inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to approach protest with non-violent resistance.  And for most Christians, the inspiration of prayer establishes a deep loving relationship with God.  

As for me, my own journey of inspiration has been one of observing and marveling at the purposeful energy of others.  My first hero as a young child was Helen Keller.  When I was a girl, I am certain that I read every book written about her life before age 8, inspired by her overcoming the frustration of losing both sight and hearing to advocate on behalf of the deaf and blind.  Later on, it would be Rosa Parks whose one courageous act led to some of America’s most significant civil right legislation.  In years past, I’ve found inspiration from education advocates like Kati Haycock of Education Trust and former Governor Roy Romer of Colorado.    

It was President Abraham Lincoln who said, “Your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”  He was right.  The difference between the impossible and the possible oftentimes lies in a person’s determination to make something happen. 

Thursday night I took a short inspiration journey to Helena, AR, to witness the first graduating class of KIPP Delta College Preparatory School. 

The Mississippi Delta is considered by many to be the nation's poorest region, trailing even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living. Phillips County lost a third of its population from 1970 to 2000; of the 24,000 people who remain, 35% live in poverty.  Established in 2002, fifth grade students entered KIPP Delta charter school with an average proficiency of 22% in Language and 20% in Mathematics.  Four years later, the same students performed at the 76th percentile in Language and 82nd percentile in Mathematics.  On Thursday night, 23 high school seniors walked the stage to become the first KIPP high school graduating class – the class of 2010.  And their hard work and determination is inspiring – 100% have been accepted to and will attend college in the fall, with two attending Vanderbilt University and two with appointments to the US Naval Academy. In an Arkansas Delta county where only 12% of adults graduate from college, who would have imagined that this level of achievement was possible?  This is what I personally call inspiring. 

While last night was not a good evening for my chemo-ridden legs, I was in spirit with two wonderful women who were honored in our Little Rock community. 

Arkansas Hospice honored philanthropist Sue Frueauff, a champion for many worthwhile causes including healthcare and education. Her generosity through the Freuauff Foundation has resulted in construction of the AR Hospice River Valley Home, an inpatient freestanding facility. The evening celebrated Sue's accomplishments, as well as recognized her forever empathy for and generosity towards those who find themselves struggling to make things better in their lives. I've had the privilege of working with Sue with the Single Parent Scholarship Fund and her energy is contagious.  Congratulations to my dear friend Sue, and her children David and Anna Kay who work by her side each day. 

And across town, City Year Little Rock honored another dear friend, Judy Tenenbaum, at the 5th Annual Red Jacket Ball with their Lifetime of Service Award. Judy is also a champion of numerous local philanthropic causes, including City Year and UAMS' Cancer Institute. In fact, Dr. Suzanne Klimberg, my surgical oncologist, became the inaugural recipient of the Muriel Balsam Kohn Chair in Breast Surgical Oncology at UAMS because of the generosity of Judy, who wakes up each day and asks, “What can I do to better the world today?” . 

Where can one find inspiration?  There’s an easy answer to that question. If you want or need inspiration, open your eyes and ears and look around you!  Inspiring lives can be found everywhere you go!  And if you're open and accepting, their inspiring works can be a gift.  

Many thanks to 23 KIPP students, and my dear friends Sue and Judy.  Their commitment and compassion and drive inspires others like me to know more, dream more and become more.  It is accomplishments like theirs that create hope – and once you choose hope, anything is possible. 

I’m finding the present to be a little bit challenging, thus my admiration for those with a can-do spirit.  My current chemo drug (Taxol) continues to take its toll on my muscles, most especially my legs.  And the mouth sores have returned to be create another challenge in this battle.  All in all, it’s going to be fine, and I continue to remind myself that I only have two more treatments remaining before surgery July 19th.  If two KIPPsters can move from the 22nd percentile in reading on to attend Vanderbilt University seven years later, I believe that my doctors and me can beat this cancer.  I'm hoping . . . 


  1. Stacy, your courage is inspiring!

  2. Thank you for what you're doing for our East Arkansas Delta. There have been so many setbacks there, it's wonderful to hear the good news.

  3. I always knew you were a brilliant woman. But your latest post proved what a writer you are. There are many things I admire about you---your optimistic courage, your friendliness, your sense of humor--and you even look great in the hat. Just want you to know that I also love you a lot as one of my dearest friends. Jim J


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