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Sunday, May 31, 2020
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A Philadelphia Memory


By Wayne Willis 

In 1976, our nation's bicentennial, my wife and I found ourselves in Philadelphia for a conference. A new movie, set in Philadelphia and getting strong reviews, was having its grand opening. During and after the film, we melted down in waves of tears of joy and hope.

On Memorial Day weekend 2016, 40 years after seeing "Rocky," we took our 10-year-old grandson to Philadelphia. We wanted to immerse him in early American history before he entered fifth grade, the year public schools offer a dose of the same.

Before touring Independence Hall and Betsy Ross' house and seeing the Liberty Bell, we walked a crooked mile to Rocky Balboa's bronze statue just below the Museum of Art steps. Having seen "Rocky" and its six sequels, our grandson wanted nothing more than to run up the steps Rocky ran as he trained for his title fight with Apollo Creed and have his picture made with fists pumping the sky next to Rocky.

Rocky is the quintessential American version of David decking Goliath, of a little underdog winning the big showdown.

In a sequel, Rocky offered his son this wisdom: "The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. You gotta be willing to take the hit and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody."

As Rocky said in the original, "All I want to do is go the distance."

It's the spirit of '76.

Happy Independence Day!