One of the most memorable scenes In the movie, A Few Good Men, is the fiery and oft quoted exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson– “I want the truth!” –“You can’t handle the truth!” Now most people would think this iconic movie is a work of Hollywood fiction, but that isn’t so. The movie was based on a real case, and Cruise’s character, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, was inspired by the efforts of real JAG attorneys, including my next contributor, Don Marcari. He has tried more than 200 jury trials, went up against major companies such as Ford, Firestone, American Honda, Home Depot and represented clients whose cases became the basis for the movie, The Paula Coughlin Story, and a book, The Story of the U.S. Navy’s Tailhook Scandal. While I admire his accomplishments as a top attorney, I was inspired by a talk he gave at an Eagle Scout ceremony for a dear friend’s son.
In a dynamic, engaging and humor filled manner, he spoke of the importance of being earnest in your goals and not giving up when life starts to challenge your fortitude. He warned against the short-term lures that can trick you into thinking that your friends are out and about sucking the marrow out of life while you are wasting your time keeping your nose to the grindstone. He applauded those with the grit, determination and perseverance to see things through to the end and told the boys of his respect for those with the tenacity to endure the rigors of the Eagle process. It was at this point I had to remind myself that this talk was for the boys and not me as I was feeling the weight of the process of starting a new business. Years later, as our son became more interested in activities at school and wanted to spend more time with his friends, his interest in making it to Eagle began to wane. However, Mr. Marcari’s words kept ringing in my ear, and I truly felt one of the best gifts his father and I could give him is the lesson of the importance of being earnest. You never know when your words might impact someone, and in this case, our son is a newly minted Eagle Scout because of Don Marcari’s reminder to always be steadfast. Here is some advice that proved important to Mr. Marcari…
The advice that impacted my life the most is something I think about every day. It was something my father told me when I was a teenager (you know how hard those years are, when you’re still trying to find yourself and your place in the world).
My father, who didn’t finish high school but had a lot of common sense, told me that every night before I went to bed and every morning when I awoke to take a good look at myself in the mirror. He reminded me to always do what was right, even if no one else knew, because you couldn’t fool the man in the mirror (I believe this is the title of a 1930’s poem). And he reminded me that if you liked the person you saw then it didn’t really matter what anyone else was saying about you.
So even today, 45 yrs. later, when I have a difficult decision to make I remember those words and, while I can’t say that I’ve always made the right decision, hopefully, I’ve made the best decision I could at the time.