A message to inspire

Published 7:39 pm Monday, January 31, 2011

He is part of the new generation of Harlem Globetrotters, but the message that Wun “The Shot” Versher brought to Suffolk on Saturday was the same one that members of America’s favorite basketball entertainers have been carrying around the world for more than 84 years.

Work together. Stay positive. Keep yourself healthy. Work hard.

That message has been updated to 2011 standards with an acronym, CHEER, which stands for Cooperation, Healthy mind & body, Effort, Enthusiasm and Responsibility.


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The character education program is one of the Globetrotters’ community outreach efforts, which serve the dual purpose of promoting the team’s coming appearances and helping to groom a new generation of responsible young people.

The Globetrotters have always been part entertainers, part basketball players and part ambassadors. They’ve traveled the world to show folks their signature skills, and in the process, they’ve given many people — Russians behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet era, for instance — their only contact with real Americans.

That they’ve committed themselves to being emissaries of character education within their own country is a testament to the importance they place on such education. Character education, they understand, can help reduce the problems that afflict young people today — among them, violence, drug use, risky sexual behavior and poor academic performance.

The new press with CHEER also acknowledges the importance of physical activity and healthy eating habits to fighting the growing problem of obesity in children, teens and adults. “Bodies are not the same as they were 15-20 years ago,” Vesher said during his visit to the Suffolk Family YMCA on Saturday. “Nutrition is extremely important for our kids.”

Character and fitness lessons can be extremely hard to teach, especially when culture persists in reinforcing contrary ideals. But one thing that will always be true is that young people respond especially well to the words of movie stars, Hollywood personalities, sports figures and the like.

Even if there’s a promotional element to the Globetrotters’ visits to area YMCAs, schools and other public places, the organization should be commended for its commitment to its young fans.