The deaths of Steve Jobs and the Rev. Fred L. Shutttlesworth last week gave us two reasons to pause and reflect. These men, their lives and work remind us of all that is good and noble about this country. Although Jobs is more relevant to our generation and Shuttlesworth means more to our parents and grandparents, both are significant figures in American culture and history.
Jobs represented an innovative, individualistic, entrepreneurial spirit that the world admires. He almost single-handedly transformed Apple into the leading company in the world making its products essential commodities in our daily life. It would be unfair to suggest that Jobs simply made toys for adults to play with because he did more than that. He changed the way we lived, the way we created, and most importantly, the way we connected.
Jobs represented not only a can-do spirit but also a must-do spirit that made America a leader in the twentieth century. If there is one thing that can be taken away from his legacy it is the fact that we can be leaders. But it takes vision. It takes determination, and it takes an uncompromising demand for excellence.
While Jobs will always be remembered for the mark that he left on technology, the Rev. Shuttlesworth will forever be recognized for his vision for justice. Shuttlesworth, former pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, dedicated his life to fighting for racial equality. He was arrested, beaten and bombed because of his determination to ensure that African Americans were allowed to exercise their God-given rights. In his book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Shuttlesworth as “one of the nation’s most courageous freedom fighters … a wiry, energetic and indomitable man.” We need more people like Shuttlesworth– people who aren’t afraid of fighting for what they believe. The sad truth is that we have become known for what we are against rather than what we are for. We need to take pride in opposition, but too often the loudest, most strident voices garner the applause for hollow diatribes.
When reflecting on the lives of these influential men – Jobs’ pursuit of technological innovation and Shuttlesworth’s passion for racial justice –we see ingredients that deserve reappraisal if America is going to regain its footing, rediscover its stride if not, its swagger. There is a lesson that can be learned from the lives of these two men who not only influenced the world, but left an undying legacy that will forever be a mark in America’s history.