I never knew much about Steve Kerr’s life. I did know that he was a terrific 3 point shooter, an interesting basketball announcer, and a terrific coach. I mistakenly thought that he was related to Johnny “Red” Kerr. He is not. I learned a great deal about Steve in an article titled Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court in today’s New York Times. Steve grew up in Beirut Lebanon as well as in California. Steve’s father, Malcolm Kerr was a Professor at UCLA and in 1982 became the President of the American University in Beirut. Malcolm was aware that his life was at risk in Lebanon. He told his daughter that he thought there was a 50-50 chance that he would be assassinated. Indeed, in 1983 Malcolm was assassinated.
“Malcolm had a tolerant attitude towards all people. ‘The truly civilized man is marked by empathy,’ Malcolm Kerr wrote in a foreword to a collection of essays called ‘The Arab-Israeli Confrontation of June 1967: An Arab Perspective.’ “By his recognition that the thought and understanding of men of other cultures may differ sharply from his own, that what seems natural to him may appear grotesque to others.”
Although Steve started out as a “brat” (his self-characterization) he learned from his father and developed a tolerance for other viewpoints while still knowing clearly what he valued. He developed the empathy that his dad said characterized a civilized person. We need such empathy now while at the same time advocating for positions that we value but doing so in a manner that tries to show those holding a different position why ours makes sense to us and inviting them to teach us why theirs makes sense to them.