Believe In Something. Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything.

| September 30, 2018

Recently, Nike launched a new advertising campaign featuring controversial former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The advertisement showed a portrait of Kaepernick with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The move was met with swift backlash from those who disagree with Kaepernick’s kneeling for the National Anthem and his appearance wearing socks that depict police officers as pigs. A boycott was called and videos circulated of people burning their Nike apparel in protest. I am not here to make a judgement on Kaepernick or Nike’s hiring of him. Instead, I would like to focus on something really good that came out of this ad campaign. The words attached to the image are so true; even if Kaepernick was not necessarily the best person to use to spread this message, the message is really important. People have made memes with those words, but truer heroes, people who stood for and sacrificed more than Colin Kaepernick has ever dreamed of. I joined this trend, choosing to highlight one of my personal heroes, Dr. Jerome Lejeune. Dr. Lejeune’s story expresses the message of this campaign perfectly.  Dr. Lejeune had everything and was one of the most popular scientists in the world. Then he proclaimed God’s Truth to the world and he became a pariah in the scientific and medical communities, losing all his research grants and never getting promoted. Lejeune saw “Death to Lejeune” scrawled on the walls in public places in France. He lost all professional relationships and even his children became targets of the vitriol directed against him.

Jerome Lejeune, who I’ve written about before because I’m a little bit obsessed with him, was a French scientist who discovered the genetic basis for Down Syndrome and another lesser known birth abnormality called Cri-du-Chat Syndrome. Lejeune was a devout Catholic who believed that all humans were made in the image and likeness of God, and are to be assisted whenever possible. To that end, Lejeune spent much of his time helping people with Down Syndrome at his low-cost private clinic with day to day things, such as getting jobs and education. Lejeune’s research helped in the development of prenatal diagnosis, detecting the possible abnormality before birth. Lejeune supported this, seeing the potential for better methods of treatment for his patients. Tragically, prenatal diagnosis took a disturbing and anti-human turn. Abortion became the common response to prenatal diagnosis. Lejeune could not stand by and watch his patients be victims of a wholesale slaughter. Lejeune spent the rest of his life speaking out against this evil practice, which was generally accepted and praised in the medical community. In fact, prenatal diagnosis of “fetal anomalies” was the original “exception” that led to the legalization of abortion in France. When the culture turned against life, the culture turned against Lejeune. He became a pariah. He lost all his research grants. He never got promoted. The legalization of abortion in France involved “Death to Lejeune” being scrawled in the streets in Paris. No one wanted to work with him. The only thing that saved his career/got him a new career was his friendship with Pope John Paul II, who appointed him the first Chairman of the Pontifical Academy For Life in 1994, shortly before he died, still reviled by the scientific establishment.


Lejeune’s life shows us that it is always rewarding to stand up for something, even if it may cost you a lot in the short term (and no, Colin, signing a larger contract with Nike than you would have gotten as a backup quarterback in the NFL is not “sacrificing everything”) because people do take notice. In fact, I pray that the Catholic Church takes notice of Lejeune’s great witness for truth and at the very least seriously considers his cause for canonization.