It doesn’t take a Nobel prize to honor Opal Lee. Here’s how all of Fort Worth can do so

Yffy Yossifor/yyossifor@star-telegram.com

As Opal Lee’s dream of a national Juneteenth holiday became a reality in recent years, the nation has shared in the power of her story.

The Nobel Peace Prize would have been a great opportunity to spread the message around the world. But even just the fact that she was considered is a reason to pause and reflect on all she’s achieved.

Lee’s life is a testament to the power of optimism and service. She is proof that power comes in many forms, including a one-time teacher whose main tools were activism and persistence.

Lee survived a horrific racist attack on her family and endured decades of segregation. Where many would have succumbed to anger or even hopelessness, Lee went to work.

She teaches lessons the world needs badly right now: How love can prevail over apathy and even bitterness. That one person can change minds and hearts. That patience and dedication can fuel remarkable progress in the course of one lifetime.

And that even modest steps, helping neighbors and the less fortunate even when you face your own struggles, bring nobility to life.

The accolades and recognition that havecome Lee’s way in recent years are richly deserved. It’s important to remember what she represents for the larger community, too. In her 96 years, Fort Worth has evolved from a city where some would terrorize her family for being Black in the wrong neighborhood to one that lifts her up as a hero.

Lee stands as a monument to the journey we’ve made. It’s nowhere near complete, but the progress seen in her lifetime inspires us that, with the right leadership and faith, we can get ever closer.

We can honor her by taking on huge, important tasks, such as improving economic and educational opportunities for Black Americans.

Or when the problems just feel too big, we can simply help a neighbor. It’s what Lee would do.

We hope Opal Lee gets every award and recognition imaginable, including, one day, that Nobel prize.

But in the end, no award is necessary or sufficient to validate what she’s achieved — for all of us.