Courage, Grace and Humor

In a selfless and sobering video message, long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek announced to his fans that he has been diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer.

But it was the way Trebek told this highly personal story that matters.

“Hi everyone, I have some news to share with all of you and it’s in keeping with my longtime policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base. I also wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health. So therefore, I wanted to be the one to pass along this information.

“Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.

“Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.”

Trebek makes several ethical points in his statement that we can all learn from:

First, he explains that he wanted to release his own statement rather than go through a publicist or representative in order to avoid any “overblown or inaccurate reports.” Honesty.

Second, in explaining about his health, he begins by saying, “just like 50,000 other people…” Just because Trebek’s a celebrity, he doesn’t want to diminish the fact that many suffer from this condition. Compassion for others.

Third, he passes along a message of optimism. “I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working.” Courage.

Yes, it takes a degree of moral courage to step forward and make such a highly personal, public announcement.

And he doesn’t forget the people closest to him as well as his fans. “…with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

Finally, he finishes with humor:

“Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!”

While humor is not an ethical value, Trebek’s expression of wit after learning such personal news goes a long way to demonstrate to friends and fans that his focus is on persevering (an aspect of Responsibility) to overcome rather than surrender to obstacles that confront us all.

What a great example of courage, grace and humor.

Alex!  We’re all praying with and for you.

3 comments… add one
  • Mohamad S. March 11, 2019, 9:59 am

    My psychology professor says if I want to become a better writer, I should read good writing like’s Jim Lichtman’s ethics blog. This is a very different kind of homework assignment for me. I am truly sorry to hear of anyone who has a life threatening illness. I will keep reading and writing.

  • Gary Lange March 11, 2019, 10:09 am

    I like how you highlighted Alex Trebek’s virtures of honesty, compassion, courage and (humor). I would hope that I could exhibit half of that if I had that kind of diagnosis.

  • Jordan A. Castellanos March 14, 2019, 8:04 am

    I’m not the biggest Jeopardy fan, but it has been a joy to watch Alex host whenever I have time and I would always learn some new trivia.

    I believe in his strengths to fight off this cancer. Although I think he should retire and spend time with his family and friends since he now has a seriously dangerous disease. I still wish him good fortune, health and happiness.

Leave a Comment