May 7, 2012
To say Robert O. Morris (C'75) has accomplished a great deal during his life may not properly do it justice. The two-time All-America defensive lineman and one of the greatest defensive players in Georgetown football history, has also been an Army `Green Beret', a CIA Operations Officer and an International Business Executive, all leading up to the publishing of his first book, "Fighting Windmills: A Quixotic Odyssey."
For Morris, the journey toward pursuing his life-long ambition to write, is filled with page-turning material, from being a "pleasant surprise" to his parents through his military experience and football playing days on the Hilltop to his experiences as a CIA operative during the `Cold War' and beyond.
"I think everyone who has done some unusual things and learned a lot of lessons along the way has that inherent urge to share that knowledge with other people," Morris said. "A lot of what I write is sharing the wisdom I've gained through trial and error."
Morris does not spare his trials or errors, deeply personalizing his life experiences, by drawing a parallel to famous literary romantic idealist hero Don Quixote, as a way of explaining his own nature and thought processes through various obstacles in life.
Morris's romantic idealistic tendencies can be seen in his approach to his early life, as he embarks on his first journey to Suffield Academy to finish his high school career at boys-only college preparatory school in a small New England town. Later, you see his same curiosity and lust for life at play, as he enlists in the Army after his first semester at Georgetown and again following his Army days during his All-America football career on the Hilltop. Though, maybe not coincidentally, Morris learns the most about himself during the summer of 1975, while backpacking through Europe, particularly the old Soviet Union, while keeping a daily journal of his experiences.
"I'm very glad I kept a journal of the summer I spent backpacking through Europe," Morris said. "This was 36 years ago and obviously a lot of the experiences and thought processes I was going through, I would have completely forgotten about had I not kept a journal. With the journal and the impactful notations I made from that summer, which was very influential period of my youth, I was able to see the foundation from which an entire life's patterns would evolve. I would hope everyone would keep a journal of all of their feelings and experiences along the way."
Morris gives a close glimpse of the feelings and thought processes of a CIA operative working in the Soviet Union, where he discusses the American battle against communism, with names and exact locations blacked out. He also discusses his struggles and triumphs of his career and its effects on his personal life, and dealing with his own feelings of failure.
"It's a very emotional process," Morris said of his sentiments, while writing his autobiography. "As we go day to day in life we don't take much time to ponder the decisions along the way. This whole process of compiling one's life experience and putting it on paper is quite a learning experience."
A range of emotions across the spectrum is on display in Fighting Windmills. In chapter 10 of the book, Morris writes extensively about the loss of his friend and Georgetown All-American running back Johnny Burke. Morris writes of Burke's "personal magnetism that was undeniable" and how "John died over 30 years ago and I am still not able to think about him without tears welling up in my eyes."
He speaks of his triumphs, overcoming the hated Fordham Rams during his senior season at Georgetown behind a strong defensive performance and offense led by Burke and Danny Lopez and the inspiration he drew from the victory after three career losses.
He also speaks of feelings of failure in his previous marriages, the frustration of being identified as a CIA operative by Russian authorities and not being able to disclose those facts and operate in his role as an international business executive (Morris, has not been allowed in Russia since 1996).
Morris comes full circle, speaking of the joy and romance of meeting his current wife of six-years, Maka, while working in Georgia in the old Soviet Union, while noting, that "when it works there is nothing more satisfying than a strong and thoroughly compatible marriage."
"The whole process of compiling one's life experience and putting it on paper is quite a learning experience," said Morris, who published his book early in 2012 by his own Legacy Publishing group. "Maybe some of the things you forget along the way or try to forget, but it's a good process. I've found it to be therapeutic and good in terms of analyzing trends."
Morris finishes his story with his life observations on topics like fatherhood, forgiveness and living in the moment, though it is clear the thought processes of the romantic-idealist living in the fashion of a modern-day Don Quixote will continue to evolve, as one of the Hoyas greatest defensive players will not be riding off into the sunset anytime soon.
"Fighting Windmills: A Quixotic Odyssey" can be purchased at www.fightingwindmills.com or at amazon.com.