Rank Hath Its Responsibilities

I have a senior journalism major who has applied for an internship at the Adventist Review, an international magazine for the Seventh-day Adventist Church located in Maryland. She is a highly qualified, very motivated person, and so I encouraged her as much as I could and my letter of recommendation was as glowing as I could make it. When we learned that Bill Knott, the editor of that publication, was the speaker for baccalaureate services for graduation, I told her that she had to introduce herself to him.

She didn’t catch him before the program, but I did, and asked him about the internship program. He said that the decision was being made by his “coordinator” but that it hadn’t been made yet. I texted my student and told her what happened, and we agreed that she should crash the faculty potluck afterward and see if she could meet him. She got there just a few minutes too late, but a friendly faculty member called our president and told him that she wanted to meet Bill Knott. Finally they connected that evening, and she had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand.

During all the run-around, she texted me that she was “very nervous” about meeting him. I told her, a person who had interviewed nearly a hundred people, to look at it as another interview. But I commiserated with her all the same.

One of the rewards of being a journalist is learning that our job gives us access that we usually don’t get. Tell a celebrity that you want to get their autograph, and they often will snub you. Tell them you want to talk to them for a story, and they are more likely to agree to take the time. At the same time, when your job requires you to talk to someone that otherwise will intimidate you, it forces you to do what you otherwise wouldn’t do. You grow fortitude you wouldn’t otherwise have.

At the same time, I have had my share of intimidation when it comes to meeting celebrities. I’ve had to interview Everson Walls, then with the Dallas Cowboys, met the governor of Idaho (when I lived there), and crossed paths with Danny Glover in an airport. And there have been others, some whom I just didn’t say anything to because I was intimidated. But really, I shouldn’t have been.

I’ve written 16 books and spoken at writer’s conferences and in front of classrooms. It always seems a little funny to me when a reader, often a young person, looks at me as a celebrity. My daughter still cracks up when someone calls me “Dr. Robinson.” But being a PhD, a professor, or a “successful” author doesn’t mean anything other than I worked hard in the classroom and in front of the computer for many years. It doesn’t make me any more special than anyone else.

Even more so, if I take my position seriously, it means that I have more obligation. Because I have my “bully pulpit” of the classroom or my novel, I have more of an obligation to say something meaningful and affect other people’s lives positively. If all I care about is the adulation and talking about how good I am, I don’t deserve what they are giving me.

So remember that when your writing success leads to you speaking for a classroom or a workshop or a church service. God raises leaders up and brings them down. Being “famous” is often out of your control. But what good you do with that fame is your responsibility.