DY: In Just a Few Words (#5)
One of the many perks of growing up in Princeton.
I spent what most people refer to as “formative years” growing up in Princeton, New Jersey where Nassau Street runs right down the middle of town – the fabled Princeton University on one side and stores and restaurants on the other.
I wouldn’t want anyone to think of me as a name dropper, but it’s hard to avoid being one when you come from Princeton. Many famous people were either raised there or passed through Princeton ranging from James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, Michelle Obama and Ted Cruz from the world of politics to actors Jimmy Stewart, Ethan Hawke and Christopher Reeves. Honors graduate Brooke Shields once said “Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” Multiple Supreme Court Justices with Princeton degrees include Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and Elana Kagen. Athletes? You bet. Heisman Trophy recipient Dick Kazmaier and basketball legend Bill Bradley sharpened their athletic skills there. Lesley Bush, a local girl, scored an Olympic gold medal in diving. Jeff Bezos of Amazon business fame and Ralph Nader who spent his career hounding the business community both earned Princeton sheepskins. And then there was J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, who lived about a mile up the street and around the corner from our house.
Standing first among local residents was Albert Einstein of 112 Mercer Street. Although he generally aspired to having a low profile, he was a familiar figure in town often seen riding a bicycle with his head of long white hair flowing in the breeze. He would do this wearing a brown military style full length coat.
A close growing up friend of mine was Tommy Montgomery who lived just two or three houses down Mercer Street from Einstein. One day, Tommy and I were engaged in a game of croquet when we happened to look up and discover the great man had come through a couple of backyards and was standing in front of us watching the competition. There for what seemed to be the longest time were the three of us – two teenage croquet players and Albert Einstein. It was a pretty serious match and I don’t recall that much was said between us. In retrospect, I think Einstein was somewhat fascinated by the game, especially the angles with which the balls were controlled and the sophisticated strategy we demonstrated. Eventually, he went back to his own house.
None of the Einstein brilliance ever rubbed off on me. But, the amazing and life-changing experience of growing up in Princeton gave me a deep respect for smart people, especially those who have used their God-given brainpower to do something good with their lives. What better example than Albert Einstein.
Sometimes it’s useful to get another person’s perspective. Here is what a well-known former professional athlete and TV analyst had to say about Albert Einstein. “The word ‘genius’ isn’t applicable to football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
Call him what you want. I prefer to call him Uncle Al. I’m sure I taught him a thing or two about croquet that day in a friend’s backyard. How many people do you know who can say Albert Einstein learned something from them?
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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