The roar of applause thundered through the auditorium, as I stepped on the stage. Staring past the glow of the spotlights, I scanned the faces of the crowd. Blind, I thought to myself. They know not who they cheer for.
At that moment, the President Bush placed the Medal of Freedom around my neck, shook my hand and blared in the microphone, “Let’s give our congratulations to Dr. Sickle. He’s certainly earned it.”
Applause and cheers echoed, as I was escorted to the podium. The din died down and the nameless faces waited for my speech.
As I peered at the crowd, I saw the look to those looking for hope, looking for a person, a great leader who can inspire them to do great things. Sadly, I was not that person. Adjusting the microphone, I spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. It is a great honor to receive the Medal of Freedom, but sadly, and remorsefully, I cannot accept it. You see, I didn’t actually do the research on the study of AIDS. The truth is a Fellow by the name of Jack Lewis, who had been working close to me, has been researching the AIDS virus since he started Graduate School. For years he has been burning the midnight oil, experimenting, documenting, and collecting data from several subjects, all in an effort to find a cure for this dastardly disease.
“He should be the one in front of this podium today, not me. It may have happened, if I hadn’t left his notes on the lab table that morning. I came into the lab to find Jack had gone to retrieve a sample of a Swine Flu virus. In his absence, I saw a tattered folder, filled with papers, sticking out of his backpack. Curiosity overtook me and I opened the folder. What I discovered astounded me. Years of studies and research concerning the AIDS virus were at my fingertips. Results of experiments I never even considered. Of course, this treasure had to be examined by a professional and who better to do it than me?
“Normally I wouldn’t have even considered taking anyone’s research work, but this was different. It was bigger than Jack or even me. This research could possibly alter the way AIDS was treated. So, for the concern of humanity and of the world, it took it.
“I scooped up the folder and returned to my office, where I could examine it more thoroughly. I cast aside the notes relevant to normal experimentation methods and paid close attention to the one more unique in its techniques. I reran several of the experiments and coming up with the same results, I found Jack’s logic flawless.
“Weeks had passed since I took the notes and Jack had finally given up on finding his lost research, which left me in a dilemma. How was I going to return the notes to him and tell him how crucial they are to modern research? I couldn’t see a feasible way of doing this, so I rewrote all the note in my own handwriting and claimed they were my own.
“Afterwards, I sent copies of my work to several colleagues around the world and within a few months, they confirmed my results. Then, I published my works and here I am today.
“Now, you may ask, “What happened to Jack?” It didn’t take for him to realize what had happened. I’ll never forget the morning he came to confront me. He stormed in my office and yelled, “How dare you!” The way he said it would have made chills run up and down my spine, if I hadn’t heard that tone from a thousand other fellows before. I sat there, nonchalantly, and replied, “How dare I what?”
“The glare of his eyes could have burnt a hole through my head, as if I cared. He could barely get the words out of his mouth. “You know what you did. Somehow, you found my notes and took them for yourself. You’re nothing but a thief! And you call yourself a doctor.” I leaned back in my chair and rocked slowly. Those are harsh and accusatory word you’ve uttered, but only have two words for you. Prove it.
“What could he say? He had no copies of his so-called work. He stomped out of my office, and I never heard from him again. Rumor has it he transferred to UMMC and received his degree from there.
“I told myself it was a tiny act for humanity, for the greater good of mankind. I repeated those words time and time again, but still my actions haunt me. Many times, I would wake up in the night and asked the age-old question: What if? I could feel the guilt of my actions bearing down on my back, crushing me to the ground. At times I could almost hear myself crying out, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” But my lips were sealed.
“After a time, I’ve learned to live with my guilt, like a yoke tied to my shoulders. I suffered, but I managed to bear the weight. I pressed on with my research and dived into my work, ignoring my pain, which brings us here today.
“Instead of accepting this award, I am going to submit my resignation letter and search for Jack Lewis to personally apologize for my behavior. I can only pray he’ll forgive me. When that’ completed, I will settle down, to reflect all the wrongs I have committed and try to make amends for my actions.
“Thank you for your time and God Bless America.”
Sadly, I was not that person. My lust for power and recognition was intoxicating, never to be quenched. Jack Lewis was a casualty of war, and his research were my spoils. Whether stolen or rightly earned, I won the prize.
Now, when I look at a microphone, I see an avenue to spread the truth, mixed with lies. Each time I speak, I call for followers, for they are the ones who grant me the power. Today is no exception.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. It is a great honor to receive the Medal of Freedom. Humbly and with humility, I accept this great honor. If it wasn’t for you and your unlimited support, none of this would have happened. Thank you again, and God bless America.”