THIS IS A TRIBUTE TO AN EXTRAORDINARY PEACEMAKER. Today I’m giving a huge, joyous SHOUT-OUT to MATTIE STEPANEK.
Many of you will remember who he is, and, if so, you’ll probably agree 100% with this shout-out. Mattie’s full name is: Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, but he went by Mattie (whew). He was born on 17 July, 1990. His parents divorced when he was a child. He wanted to be remembered as “a POET, a PEACEMAKER, and a PHILOSOPHER WHO PLAYED.” Mattie suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. His three older sibilings died from the same thing. His mother Jeni was diagnosed with the same disease in 1992, after all four children had been born.
Before his death (at the age of 13), he had become known as someone who loved and encouraged PEACE, and as a motivational speaker. President Jimmy Carter said of Mattie: “he was the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known.” Oprah Winfrey met him in 2001 when he was just 11 years old, and he became one of her favorite guests. He was wise beyond his years, and she always introduced him as an extraordinary little boy.
He began writing poetry at the age of three. In his book Heartsongs, Mattie shares wonderful thoughts – his “heartsongs” – which are truly beautiful (incredible!). Some of his artwork is also included.
Mattie died in Washington D.C. on 22 June, 2004. He is buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. Shortly after his death, the non-profit “Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation” was established by a group of citizens in Rockville, Maryland, where he lived. On 21 October, 2008, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park was dedicated in Rockville. Oprah Winfrey and others were there.
Central to the park is the “Peace Garden,” based on the peace imagery Mattie used in his book Just Peace: A Message of Hope. In the Peace Garden there is a life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog Micah, surrounded by chess tables. Throughout the park there are quotes and “soundbites” from Mattie.
Pepper Choplin set words from Mattie’s final peace speech to music, and a 100-voice choir performed “Look Up Way Down.”
On 06 June 2010, a performance of “Heartsongs” took place at Carnegie Hall in New York City, featuring Mattie’s poetry set to music by Joseph Martin, performed by a 200-voice combined children’s choir and others.
In 2011, Oprah Winfrey named Mattie as one of her all time most memorable guests in the 25-year history of her show. During the final taping, Mattie’s Mother Jeni and Oprah shared memories of Mattie. Oprah called him “a messenger for our times.”
On 21 September, 2012, the Mattie T.M. Stepanek Guild was initiated with the purpose of gathering information and investigating Mattie’s life for the possible Caus of Canonization in the Catholic Church. On 22 June 2014, a memorial mass at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC commemorated Mattie’s 10-year death anniversary.
Many other honors and celebrations have been held in honor of the short life of this amazing, wonderful messenger of peace.
There is a FACEBOOK PAGE in his honor and memory.
MATTIE WITH OPRAH WINFREY IN 2001 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Rg9TTuoDE
QUOTES BY MATTIE http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mattie_stepanek.html