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A Thought About Roland Johnson by Robert Perske

(On October 8, 1994, a Celebration of Roland Johnson’s Life was held at the Church on the Mall, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. Bob planned to attend, but “got a call to join with some others who are trying to keep a man with a disability from being executed” and was unable to attend. He sent these words in his place).

A great man named Robert Penn Warren believed:

That if you really want to know a man,

You must know his passion.

I knew Roland Johnson because

I knew his passion.

There was no mistaking his passion.

He had lots of it.

Roland always spoke

With the passion of an honest lawyer,

Always with that wooing note in his voice.

That became a beckoining finger

That drew you close

And made you listen to his hunger

For dignity and freedom

For all of his friends.

Words failed him sometimes,

And his sentences got mixed up,

But I always felt his urgency.

And I always got the point

Because I felt, really felt his passion.

Then I got to thinking how I rub elbows

With some people who have lots of smarts:

reading and writing smarts

adding and subtracting smarts

thinking and professional smarts…

But they possess the passion of a dead pigeon.

* * * * *

So if the Good Lord came to me

And suddenly gave me the choice

Between having either

The smarts of the smarties

Or the passion of Roland Johnson …

I would choose … Roland’s passion every time.

— Bob Perske