The Story BEHIND “Ranger”
In many of my recent interviews, one question seems to come up again and again. Why, considering my age and professional background, did I want to start a new career writing children’s stories?
Of all the titles I have held through my career (and I’ve had a few), the one I treasured most was “Daddy” (although more recently, “Gramps” is giving “Daddy” a run for its money). My wife and I raised two fantastic daughters and both are now mommies in their own right, juggling career and family. My grandchildren range from 2 to 10 years old, with three boys and one girl. (Guess which one is boss?) What goes around comes around and these days I, once again, find myself reading bed time stories to sleepy grandkids.
So why did I decide to write my own children’s book?
My own writing has been professional, with many magazine articles, professional papers and such over the years. One book (you don’t want to hear the title) to my credit, a computer design reference book. About four years ago, the idea of writing a book for children began percolating in my head, and resurrecting itself each holiday season. Finally, around Christmas of 2011, I convinced myself to put pen to paper and draft a story around a germ of an idea that I had been developing.
It was only during the actual process of writing the story that I realized that I was weaving some important messages for children (of all ages) into it. They come from my own life experience and from many leadership situations I experienced during my career. The Army had the best possible recruiting slogan, designed to attract the best and the brightest: “Be All You Can Be.” Those five words encapsulate a philosophy that every individual would do well to internalize. If I were writing a college application essay, I can’t think of a better topic to explore.
My new book, “The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly,” is a Christmas story set in the North Pole region, but it could just as well be set at any time of year and in any place. It has been described by reviewers as a heartwarming and inspirational story, as it follows young Ranger through his quest to learn the secret of flying and join the Christmas Eve team. I also wrote a companion song titled “Dream and Believe.” The message of the book and song are succinctly stated in the concluding line of the song, “You can accomplish whatever you dream, if you just believe in yourself.” My purpose in writing the book and the song has been to teach children to think big, to set objectives and goals for themselves, and then to believe in their own hearts that, if they work hard, they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to.
Many Colonels and Generals (OK, Admirals too…) from the military have written books about management and leadership and left their constructive mark in the professional world. I applaud them for that. I chose to target children instead. Why children?
For many years I served on the board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education that was established as a living memorial to the seven Challenger astronauts who perished in January of 1986 when their space shuttle mission exploded on launch. This was to have been the “education mission,” carrying the first citizen astronaut, elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe into space, from where she would beam lessons (and inspiration) to children on earth. Christa summed up her own philosophy this way: “I touch the future; I teach.” She recognized that children are the future, and the direction that future will take depends on where our children will take it.
Christa McAuliffe exemplified the Army’s motto of “Be All You Can Be” through her own career, and set an example that all children would do well to emulate. It starts with dreaming and working to realize those dreams, and developing the self-confidence to believe in yourself and make your dreams come true. What better lesson can we impart to our own children? And I am convinced that we cannot start too early in a child’s life to begin to shape their self-perception and ambition.
Before we know it, our toddlers and preschoolers will be off to school for many hours a day where they are out of the protective envelope that Mom and Dad would like to wrap around them. They will quickly become exposed to one of the most powerful influences in their lives: peer pressure. Some kids will be the “leaders” and many more will be the “followers.” The best defense against our children being misled by misguided peers is for our children to themselves be leaders who have the self-confidence to say, “no, that’s wrong, we should do this instead.”
The lesson that Ranger’s adventure teaches is a good place to start.