top of page

On Being a Champion

On Being a Champion

By Mattie J.T. Stepanek

A Champion is a winner, A hero... Someone who never gives up Even when the going gets rough. A champion is a member of A winning team... Someone who overcomes challenges Even when it requires creative solutions. A champion is an optimist, A hopeful spirit... Someone who plays the game, Even when the game is called life. There can be a champion in each of us, If we live as a winner, If we live as a member of the team, If we live with a hopeful spirit, For Life.

It was 2001 and Mattie J.T. Stepanek and his mom were being interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I love and miss the Oprah Winfrey Show so much, she is the only TV show host that at times could make me cry. And when Oprah shared Mattie’s story I was boo hooing, but so overjoyed that someone who was only 11 years old at that time and so sick, could be so positive. It was at this moment I stopped complaining. Immediately, after watching this episode I bought two-three copies of Mattie’s books and gave them as gifts highlighting this poem.

In this 2001 episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Mattie called himself a peace-maker. He had several close calls with death but found his peace through poetry. Now how someone so young could be so wise about life had me stumped, however Mattie’s heart and message were so big and needed for our world. Mattie suffered with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and unfortunately passed away June 22, 2004.

How “On Being a Champion,” relates to AAA?

My book title starts with three words that all start with A’s but please know it is a coincidence. AAA takes you from A-Z as it is part history, part memoir and part self-help. My plea is for peace in the Black Community and ultimately peace in this chaotic world we live in. My favorite line from On Being A Champion is, “There can be a champion in each of us,” and then Mattie breaks down how, “If we live as a winner, If we live as a member of the team, If we live with a hopeful spirit, For Life.” Winners would not bring their Black brother nor Black sister down, a winner would have a spine. A winner would reach back and help their Black community and not use them as a stepping stool on your way up, “I got mine, go get yours.” A winner would not pretend to be a great politician, judge, attorney, executive, engineer, doctor and/or entrepreneur.

My message might come across at times as negative, however please trust me I am not negative at all. It is “truth” and though sometimes the truth hurts, the only way to overcome the challenges is sit in the truth and make that change. A winner looks out for their own and their own is loyal to that winner, with a spine, with courage and with knowledge.

Today what’s going on with Mattie J.T. Stepanek’s Peace Movement [1]:

  • In 2004 shortly after Mattie’s death, the non-profit Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation was established by a group of citizens in Rockville, Maryland where he was born and raised. It is called “Peace is Possible (”

  • On October 21, 2008, the Mattie J.T Stepanek Park was dedicated in Rockville, Maryland at an event attended by Oprah Winfrey

  • On June 6, 2010, a performance of "Heartsongs" took place at Carnegie Hall, NY, featuring Stepanek's poetry set to music by composer Joseph Martin, and performed by a 200 voice combined Children's Choir and other members of the Distinguished Concerts Singers International under the direction of conductor Stephen Roddy.[

  • In 2011, Oprah Winfrey named Stepanek as one of her all time most memorable guests in the 25 year history of her show. During the final studio audience taping, Stepanek's mother and Oprah shared memories of Stepanek, discussed his life story in the "Messenger" book, and Oprah called him "a messenger for our times."

Clearly, Mattie J.T. Stepanek left an everlasting impact on my life too. Mattie published seven N.Y. Best Sellers: Just Peace: A Message of Hope (2006); Reflections of A Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs (2005);Loving Through Heartsongs (2003);Celebrate Through Heartsongs (2002);Hope Through Heartsongs (2002);Journey Through Heartsongs (2002) and Heartsongs (2002)

[1] Wikipedia

bottom of page