Two years ago, my son watched my daughter, Anna, graduate from Broken Arrow High School. That night Tram Le gave a speech because she was the top student of the class of 2015.
Jacob decided that night he wanted to be a hero like Tram Le.
Two years later, May 15, 2017, Jacob gave that speech in the same slot in the program as Tram.
He called seniors to choose: be a villain or a hero. There is no middle ground.
I’ve gotten a front row seat, an inside look these last two years as Jacob has struggled to live out this decision. There was no middle ground in the last two years of many sleepless nights as Jacob set out to study and do well in AP classes and on the PSAT in order to become a National Merit Finalist. There was no middle ground when he decided night after night to stay up late and finish studying. There was no middle ground when he decided to not only study but also serve and lead in school, church, and community.
There was no middle ground when he ate healthy food and went running–he told me one time that studying is “dynamic” and sometimes an idea comes clear to him while running.
This reminds me of the Chariots of Fire story where Eric Liddell says when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. I can tell that as Jacob learns and grows, he’s feeling God’s pleasure, and he’s not just a student of science and math but also Scripture. And he knows his own wisdom and knowledge is not enough. He seeks God’s direction and Spirit’s guidance in daily prayer.
So Jacob gave a speech along with two of his classmates. All three of the speeches Monday night worked well together. Lexi Bagrosky spoke about senior memories and her laugh line was, “No one has all the answers, unless of course they cheat off of Jacob Taylor.”
Noah Osborne spoke about living with a passion for a cause bigger than ourselves. Then he said a line from the senior class motto, “Remember, if anyone is interested, I have some free love to give.” He followed that by saying, “But the only reason I have that love to give is because God sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, and I can’t help but express my love back to my one King without an act of worship, so if you know this hymn sing along.” Then he sang “Amazing Grace” and many in the crowd of 10,000 sang along. He stopped singing to listen as the crowd finished, “was blind but now I see.”
Jacob grabbed most of the guys’ attention with his speech when he started, “In my favorite movie, The Dark Knight . . .” He quoted Harvey Dent: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.” What he meant, Jacob said, was that there are two paths in life. Then he quoted “a man he admires,” who said, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no middle ground.”
There was no middle ground when Jacob decided to join a team of young engineers developing a sustainable way to feed fish in Kenya.
There was no middle ground when Jacob has stood up as an example for other students, even when he felt embarrassed or wanted to see others awarded or congratulated as well.
Jacob has made his choice. He has chosen to be part of the solution. Another example: the day after graduation, Jacob traveled with a school group to help with Special Olympics in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Jacob has taught me so much in his eighteen years of life. He’s the first to coin the term in my hearing at least of a “missionary-engineer.” I’ve gotten a front row seat to watch Jacob as he’s been preparing himself to change the world, to be a hero.
One of my favorite things to watch over these last few years is the relationship Jacob has with his mother and my wife, Jill. She is the AP lead at Broken Arrow High School and teaches calculus and Algebra 3 there. It has been fun listening (without comprehending) to their conversations about calculus and the learning environment of Broken Arrow High School. Jill has had a greater role in Jacob’s academic success by far, and not just by genetics but also by her hard work and dedication to working with Jacob over many years of school.
One of the things we have talked about with Jacob since he was old enough to understand–which wasn’t very old for Jacob–is this: “Jacob, God has blessed you with a great mind and heart. Now give back to Him by using your gifts for God’s glory.”
I believe Jacob is doing that. Yes, I’m proud of my son. But I’m also a student of my son’s life, work ethic, courage, and wisdom. Though my son, Jacob is also my hero.
Watch this video as my hero celebrates with some of his friends!