The day after Thanksgiving I finally got a chance to watch one of
the movies on my â€œPlanning Toâ€� listâ€”you know, those
movies youâ€™ve heard are good or that you suspect are good,
but that you havenâ€™t really heard that much about. So they stay
in the back of your mind as unfinished business, something to check
out if the opportunity presents itself.
Well, the day after Thanksgiving, it presented itself, and I got a long-
delayed opportunity to watch Akeelah and the Bee, a 2006 movie
about a South Los Angeles student who can spell. It is also the
story of her mother, played by Angela Bassett, and her spelling
coach, brought to troubled life by Laurence Fishburne.
At first, I was intrigued by the realistic portrayal of the title
character by Keke Palmer. Her wisecracking, defensive Akeelah
reminded me of so many students Iâ€™ve worked with over the
The Fishburne character, Dr. Larabee, refuses to put up with her
attitude. He has her read a quote from Marianne Williamson that is
hanging on his wall: â€œOur deepest fear is not that we are
inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond
measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were
born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as
we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.â€�
â€œDoes that mean anything to you?â€� Dr. Larabee asks.
â€œI don't know,â€� Akeelah responds.
â€œIt's written in plain English,â€� Dr. Larabee snaps, â€œWhat
does it mean?â€�
â€œThat I'm not supposed to be afraid?â€�
â€œAfraid of what?â€�
â€œAfraid of . . . me?â€�
I had already written most of an article about Franklin Rooseveltâ
€™s inaugural speech on Fearing Fear. At the time of Roosevelt's
inauguration, the Great Depression was at its depth. A
consummate speaker, Roosevelt reminded the American people
that the nationâ€™s difficulties concerned â€œonly material things.â
â€œFirst of all,â€� he said, â€œlet me assert my firm belief that the
only thing we have to fear is fear itselfâ€”nameless, unreasoning,
unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat
into advance. â€�
Freedom from fear was one of the Four Freedoms Roosevelt felt
were our birthrightâ€”freedom of speech and religion and freedom
from want and fear.
Fear is at least as big a threat to our spiritual lives as Roosevelt
thought it was to the survival of the nation. Fear attacks our faith
that God cares for us, provides our needs, keeps his promises and
gives us strength. Faith is a stronger ally than US military might
seemed to Churchill. It defeats the worst our adversary, Satan, can
throw at us.
Fear really can paralyze us. It has me numerous times. It makes us
ineffective. But faith is the victory that overcomesâ€”not just
economic hard times and military foes, but sin, death, the world ,
and our own insecurities.
As Akeelah came to realize and to make a part of her life, â€œWe
were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And
as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.â€�
In the process, Akeelah brought her neighborhood together, giving
it something to feel proud of, giving it hope, and thus helping
overcome the fear that was defeating it.