Cartoonist touts value of never giving up

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

Pulitzer Prize-winning nationally syndicated editorialcartoonist Marshall Ramsey told Brookhavenites at the libraryThursday that the secret to success is never giving up.

Ramsey, who works for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, spoke to thegroup at the library as a part of the Mississippi Museum of Artdisplay of his editorial cartoons.

He started just out of college as a high school janitor, Ramseysaid, and realized he was wasting his talent. He began drawingcaricatures of prominent people at the school, and finally one ofthe teachers connected him with a friend of hers at a newspaper,who gave him a job.

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“The editor told me I wasn’t talented enough to be an editorialcartoonist and I didn’t believe him,” he said, adding that one dayhe sent some of his work off on a whim, and from there, wassyndicated. In two years he had made the jump from high schooljanitor to head of marketing at a newspaper in South Dakota.

And Ramsey said through his life there has been one importantlesson that has applied to every great success: Learning to dealwith failure.

“The most important thing I tell groups that I speak to is tolearn how to fail,” he said. “I don’t want them sitting at homebecause someone told them no and they gave up.”

The other important ingredient to success, Ramsey said, is hardwork. He told of a bicycle trip he took which spanned severalweeks, and said readers never knew he was gone.

“I didn’t miss a newspaper,” he said. “Mostly because I rememberbeing a janitor, and I don’t want to go back.”

Ramsey said his work, which brings laughter to a lot of peopleevery day, can also cause some adversarial circumstances. One ofhis favorite subjects to depict was former Mississippi Gov. KirkFordice.

Ramsey said the arm’s-length respect he and Fordice shared wasbased, for him, on Fordice’s forthrightness.

“Of all the politicians out there, he’d actually tell you whathe thought to your face,” Ramsey said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’velearned to appreciate that more and more.”

Ramsey also talked about what it’s like to see his cartoons inpublications like USA Today, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report,The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

“That means I’ve gone toe-to-toe with every other editorialcartoonist in the country and came out on top,” he said. “Everytime is just as exciting as the first time I ever saw my work inprint.”

And finally, Ramsey told the group of his battle with cancer,saying that three doctors didn’t find the malignant melanoma, butthe fourth one did.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said. “And my family did whatfamilies do, and decided to surround me with love and spend familytime, so they took me to Destin. They’re on the beach, and I’m onthe couch watching Dr. Phil.”

Ramsey described how he finally got tired of sitting inside andtook his shirt off to go out to the beach, operation scar andall.

“And this woman and her children are looking at me, staring atmy scar. But instead of feeling self-conscious, I just said, ‘Ohthat? Shark attack. Right where your kids are playing,'” hesaid.

The point, Ramsey said, is to never accept defeat, look for thehumor in every situation, and look for opportunities to serveothers. He said those were just some of the keys that got himthrough his struggle with skin cancer.

Ramsey’s work will be on display through the end of October. Thelibrary hosts a Mississippi Museum of Art Exhibit four times ayear. The next one, library officials said, will be sometime afterthe new year.