Heroic Subject of 'Men of Honor' to Speak at Penn College

Published 09.20.2001


If an obstacle is placed in your path, Carl Brashear counsels, "Use it as a source of strength; don't take it negatively."

Brashear, the subject of the recent motion picture "Men of Honor," should know. He overcame an accident in which he lost a leg to become the Navy's first African-American Master Diver. He'll discuss his life, his philosophy and the making of the Bill Cosby-produced film when he speaks Tuesday, Sept. 25, as part of the Fall 2001 Lecture Series at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The program, sponsored by the Student Activities Office at Penn College, begins at 8 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center auditorium. Admission is free, but tickets are required. The public may obtain tickets at the Student Activities information desk in the Bush Campus Center. The desk is staffed Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Brashear, who was portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding Jr. in the motion picture, will offer a program entitled, "The Real Story Behind 'Men of Honor.' " To become the Navy's first African-American Master Diver in 1970, Brashear overcame a crippling injury and other obstacles. He continued to dive after losing half his leg during the recovery of a nuclear warhead in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966.

In 1998, Brashear became one of only seven enlisted men in history to be enshrined in the Naval Archives. A 164-page volume transcribes an oral history of his life and career. He says his father inspired him to find strength in adversity.

"My father was a strong individual," he said. "He had told me when I went in the Navy to work hard and to be the best. Along the way, I learned that you had to develop thick skin to be a deep-sea diver, no matter what color you are."

You also need the fortitude to endure physical and psychological abuse, Brashear explained.

"I had just a little bit more because I was "colored" during those days they used "colored" and I was the first one there," he recalled.

Brashear says the movie's story line follows his life closely, and accurately, with one exception.

"We only fabricated one scene in the movie," he said. "The scene where the submarine came by and touched my air hose and lifeline that was total fabrication. That was the Hollywood version."

Some valuable lessons are imparted by the film, Brashear says. "The movie is powerful and inspiration," he said. "It will inspire people to work hard and go the distance, whatever the distance may be."

He said the message he wants to share most during his lectures is: "If you work hard, dedicate yourself and maintain a positive attitude, and if you don't look for instant gratification, you can reach your goals and you can reach your dreams. I just stress don't look for instant gratification. You got to dedicate yourself and continue to educate yourself for bigger and better things, and work hard in life."

One thing that has changed since his early days in the Navy, Brashear said, is the status of race relations in America.

"We have made significant progress in race relations," he said. "Of course, we have more work to do to have a level playing field. But I think today, if you work hard, respect people even if they disagree with you and do your job, they might not like you, but they can't stop you."