Legacies: What will we leave behind?

Member Group : From the Kitchen Table

Public figures, in politics, sports, and cinema, write memoirs and autobiographies. Business leaders create charitable trusts bearing their names. Both groups put their names on buildings and roads and transportation centers. They want to be sure that they are remembered, and honored, by future generations.

They are seeking to create a public and permanent legacy.

For most of us, the legacy we leave will be more private. That will not make it less important. In fact, the legacy left by folks the world calls "average Joe’s" is often more permanent and more influential than that of their more celebrated counterparts.

For example, most Americans can identify Abraham Lincoln. His words and actions directed the course of our nation, and therefore the world. But few can name his mother Nancy – the woman who made sure that he learned to read, and encouraged him to pursue the education that set him upon his career path. A path that led to the White House.

She was never famous or wealthy or "important". But her legacy was to give America a President.

She, of course, did not know that she was giving America a President when she taught her little boy to read. She was just loving and caring for her son.

We have just finished our 7th anniversary remembrances of 9/11 in which we mourned anew the loss of those who perished, and recognized the bravery of those who selflessly rescued so many.

Sometimes, the legacy of that bravery is unreported.

For example, the men and women who died fighting the terrorists on Flight 93 kept that plane from reaching Washington. One plane had already hit the Pentagon that morning. One of the women working inside was 6 months pregnant. She had survived the first attack. And because of the bravery of those Americans on Flight 93, there was no second plane.

That child was born on December 10, 2001, making him the youngest Pentagon survivor of September 11. His life, and the lives of his children and his grandchildren through future generations exist because of the legacy left by the folks on Flight 93.

The families of those who gave their lives to rescue others are as much a part of that gift as the rescuers themselves. It was the families who created the character and the courage that motivated the rescuers that day.

And for every person rescued, the lives saved must be counted in generations.

It is a legacy that is more valuable and more permanent than any building or fund or memoir. And while the names of those who gave this gift may be forgotten, its value will never be diminished.

It is a legacy that will truly endure forever.