Ishmael Beah speaks at Beck Middle School

Danielle Fox ('13)/ Eastside Staff

Originally, he wrote to relieve himself of all the violence and hatred of his past, and then decided to publish his story of a child soldier who lived to defy a corrupt society, but on March 19, 2010, Ishmael Beah spoke at Henry C. Beck Middle School to teach young teens about what it means to have resilience.

Beah’s novel, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, was published in 2007 and has since been awarded Time Magazine’s number-three non-fiction book for 2007 as well as one of 2009’s “Outstanding Books for the College Bound.”

Beah’s story revolves around his life as child soldier from Sierra Leone. As he spoke to the Beck students, he explained how one minute his life was centered on school, reading Shakespeare and listening to music with friends, but then shifted to focus on whether or not he would survive the next minute. Beah spent three long years running from not only violence, but also from the officers who would recruit the child soldiers. During his time as a child soldier, Beah found that violence immediately impaired his character, and he was slowly pulled into a hurricane of drugs and propaganda, which the officers used to ensure that the children would battle with passion.

Though Beah spent several minutes speaking about his brutal past, his main focus was to teach the young teens to aspire to be greater than their largest doubts. He explained how it took time to build his self-esteem.

He said, “When I [would enter] a room I [knew] where the red exit signs [were], because after training in the military [those were] things I couldn’t get rid of.”

But, eventually Beah learned to turn his negative thoughts to positive ones. Specifically, when he started college and faced insomnia, Beah chose to take advantage of his “sleepless situation,” and completed all of his homework instead of moping around and complaining of no sleep, he said.

Through his story, Beah showed the students that they can defy their obstacles and rise to be someone of great purpose. As his last words to the crowd, he said, “No matter what happens, in life I don’t think anyone [goes] beyond redemption. I don’t think [people go] beyond a place where they cannot come back or cannot turn [their lives] around.”

After listening to his story, one can conclude that not only is Beah a prominent hero, but that he will continue to inspire others to leap towards great achievements.