Billy Mills addresses University audience, favors diversity

By Terrell Starr

Unity through diversity was the central theme of Billy Mills’ lecture last night.

He spoke to an audience of 65 University faculty and students. Some high school athletes were also in attendance.

Mills was introduced with a short video presentation of himself sprinting to victory in the 10,000-meter run at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

After the video ended, Mills walked before the audience and reflected on how the media dubbed his performance as “the greatest upset in sports history.” Then he said, “but that is not what I took from (the) sport.”

Speaking with a storyteller voice, the Olympic gold medalist conducted his lecture like a current affairs seminar on contemporary American-Indian issues.

He addressed issues of American-Indian sovereignty and how 5 to 25 percent of all cases before the Supreme Court deal with this issue.

During the question and answer session, Daniel Luis, senior in AHS, asked Mills at what point he felt the issue of how others are perceived became a global issue.

Mills responded by saying the turning point came when he was on the verge of suicide after placing third in a race back in college. He planned to jump from a hotel window, but something told him “don’t.” He said to the audience he then made up his mind that he would win gold at the Olympics.

“I just decided that I would make my journey in life a journey of opportunity as I address challenges, and that’s when I wrote down gold medal and said ‘10,000 meter run, believe, believe, believe,'” Mills said.

Pradeep Shenoy, graduate student, said he notices many students at the University still wear Chief Illiniwek shirts around campus and asked Mills how he felt about the mascot issue.

Mills responded by saying that he has been asked to support sports teams’ mascots in the past, but he always refused. “I simply said, ‘I can’t'”, he said.

“Because you take my culture, my tradition, my spirituality that I still practice. You strip the virtues and the values out, which were stripped of our people who were not allowed to practice. It doesn’t honor me.”

On a lighter note, Patrick Mazzocco, senior at Central High School, asked if “Running Brave”, a movie depicting Mills’ life, was a true representation of him.

Mills said in response, “the movie was very real.”

Following his lecture, Mills left to speak to the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, which is a body of that represents each varsity sport at the University.

Mills is currently the spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth.