Jesse Owens – Purpose

Jesse Owens was born James Cleveland Owens on Sept. 12, 1913, in Oakville, Ala.  Owens was an exceptional athlete, who broke records at the high and college level, including the fastest man in the world.

Owens had bigger plans, to compete in the Olympics and disprove Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy. Being African-American son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves, Owens wanted to prove African American were not inferior. He gave four virtuoso performances, winning gold medals in the 100- and 200- meter dashes, the long jump and on America's 4x100 relay team. (Score it: Owens 4, Hitler 0)

In Germany, the Nazis portrayed African-Americans as inferior and ridiculed the United States for relying on "black auxiliaries." One German official even complained that the Americans were letting "non-humans, like Owens and other Negro athletes," compete.

Many black Americans did not want Jesse to go to Berlin.  Owens felt otherwise.  He knew his purpose was much bigger than himself. He wanted to prove the Nazi’s and their leader wrong.  He did… but it came with a price.

"When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus," Owens said. "I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either."

Owens wasn't complaining. That wasn't his style. He believed it was his job "to try to make things better." Owens did not let other people get in the way of his vision and purpose. He eventually reaped the benefits of his labor.

In 1976, President Ford presented Owens with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the U.S. can bestow upon a civilian. Four years later, a street in Berlin was renamed in his honor.

  • Is your purpose bigger than yourself?
  • What things might get in the way of your vision?
  • Are you prepared sacrifice in order to complete the vision?