“If you want to be important – wonderful. If you want to be recognized – wonderful. If you want to be great – wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. …[E]verybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant….”
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Drum Major Instinct
Delivered in Atlanta, Georgia
February 4, 1968
On March 29, The Spencerian urged our readership to become more active in their communities or at least in the Democratic Party (“Your Party Needs You: A Call To Democratic Activists”). Though in 1,964 words we could not, for whatever reason, conjure the name of even one small-time, local community activist to serve as an example. 28-year-old Marla Ruzicka, who was killed in by a suicide bomber in Iraq on Saturday, embodied activism on a grand and global scale.
CIVIC Worldwide, the organization founded by Ms. Ruzicka, published a letter on their website. It reads, in part:
“It is with deep sadness and regret that I am writing to inform you that Marla died on Saturday at the age of 28 in a suicide bomb attack. Faiz, CIVIC’s Iraq Country Director, was also killed. It is tragically ironic that two beautiful people who devoted their lives to helping innocent victims of war have now become them.
The attack occurred on the Baghdad Airport road as she traveled to visit an Iraqi child injured by a bomb, part of her daily work of identifying and supporting innocent victims of this war.
Their deaths are profound losses not only for their family and friends, but for the entire world. There are precious few who have the courage to stand up and demand justice for all the victims of conflict wherever they may be. This troubled world cannot afford to lose people like them.”
The CIVIC website, and letter, can be found here.
In her article, Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post Foreign Service reported:
“In a one-woman battle for the victims of war, 28-year-old Marla Ruzicka won over Congress and the U.S. military, persuading the United States to free a precedent-setting $20 million for civilians it injured by mistake in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ruzicka was killed Saturday on Baghdad's most dangerous road when a suicide bomber aiming for a U.S. convoy pulled up alongside her and detonated his explosives.
The blast also killed Ruzicka's longtime Iraqi aide and driver, Faiz Ali Salim, 43, as they drove the road to a U.S. military base by the airport, where foreigners travel for flights out of the country and where Iraqis go to ask for help from the American forces.
A security guard for the convoy was also killed. His identity had not been released by authorities.”
Ruzicka had been successful in lobbying the United States Senate, specifically Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), for money to help civilian victims of war. She had pushed the Senator for $2.5 million to assist civilian war victims in Afghanistan. Later, she lobbied for $10 million for victims of war in Iraq. Last week, the Senate authorized the $10 million for Iraq.
“She came to us with the idea of putting a special fund in the foreign aid bill to take care of projects to help people whose businesses had been bombed by the U.S by mistake or collateral damage of some sort,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Sunday. “Just from the force of her personality, we decided to take a chance on it.”
Senator Leahy continued: “She was the one that persuaded us,” Mr. Leahy said Sunday afternoon in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “Here’s someone who at 28 years old did more than most people do in a lifetime.”
The Associated Press report, filed out of San Francisco (not far from Ruzicka’s home town of Lakeport, California), summed up her life in a one-sentence paragraph: “Ruzicka dedicated her life to helping others.”
We at The Spencerian did not know Marla Ruzicka, and we are undoubtedly lesser for it. Nor were we familiar with her service on behalf of the civilian victims of war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, though we are, too late, inspired by this noble work. And although we did not know her, Marla Ruzicka’s story and its tragic ending have given us a gift of sorts. It has allowed us to re-evaluate the true meaning of advocacy and activism. It has forced us to again ask, what is our true definition of greatness? Are we servant enough to be great? And if we choose to serve on behalf of a political party, our community, our country, or the world, will our hearts be full of enough grace to do so? We believe that Marla Ruzicka was an inspiration, that her heart was full of grace, and that she was not only a servant of those in the global village who need our help the most, but of a soul generated by love. ts