“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ethan Johnson, 33, a fiery advocate for service to the public, internalized this quote and lives by it daily.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ethan Johnson, 33, a fiery advocate for service to the public, internalized this quote and lives by it daily. An expert in public health, he’s determined to make real improvements in the world around him.
As a young boy, his father, Earl, showed him what it meant to truly commit oneself to growth, work, and family. Johnson considers him to be a role model, as he’s watched his father work a job, pursue a doctorate in education, and “hustle for other opportunities”, not only for himself but also for the people around him in his free time. On the other hand, Johnson’s mother, Jewel, showed him the importance of grace and kindness. “It didn’t matter what was going on in the world, I always felt like I received a limitless amount of patience and love from her. This isn’t to say she never disciplined me, but even in the moments of correction it was done with grace and love.” Earl and Jewel Johnson’s admirable character traits substantially impacted their son’s views and values and ultimately helped mold him into the man he is today.
In the 8th grade, Ethan Johnson was put in a frightening life or death situation. “I was hospitalized for an extended period for an illness that physicians could not initially pinpoint. Difficulty breathing, odd rashes, and swelling of the heart were the primary symptoms.” He and his parents were further alarmed by the multiple misdiagnoses which caused his health to rapidly spiral. They later found out that Johnson had Kawasaki Disease and after the acquisition of a blood transfusion, he was able to quickly recover, though he describes this as one of the worst moments of his childhood. Years later, he took an interest in health.
One thing that Ethan greatly appreciates and encourages is the nourishment and strengthening of one’s character and skill set. As a matter of fact, he’s currently perfecting his ability to resolve conflict, as he believes that such a skill is relevant in every face of life. “I’ve found that in most conflicts I’m engaged in or assisting with deescalating, the goal is almost always reconciliation. I’d love to have better skills to help myself and others arrive [at] this point more quickly.” In addition to conflict resolution, Johnson is also working hard at his social marketing skills, a process that focuses on influencing behaviors and benefiting society. As a public health leader, he believes that it is a crucial time to be skilled in this area.
Presently, Ethan is very happy in his 7th year of marriage to his wife, Arielle Johnson, describing her as his rock. But things weren’t always sunshine and rainbows. He reveals that the first year of their marriage was characterized by loss, as they’d experienced the stillbirth of their first child and the loss of both of their grandfathers. On top of that, they’d gotten themselves into a financial slump, which resulted in the loss of their apartment. “I felt like I failed my family”, Johnson explains. “The stress had me questioning whether we’d make it through this. We hadn’t even been married a year.” Contrary to Ethan’s doubts, he and Arielle did in fact make it through and come out on top. Taking steps toward recovery, such as moving in with one of their parents, accepting emotional support from loved ones, and taking a financial literacy class, led to real progress. For example, two years later they’d bought their first home! “We often cite the challenges encountered [in] our first year of marriage and our dedication to not be destroyed by them as one of the primary reasons we are so happy in our marriage today.”
In the future, Johnson plans to complete his doctorate degree and become debt free. In 2018, he began his journey in the Doctor of Public Health program. A journey which was expected to take only 3 years, but 4 1/2 years later Johnson is still working toward its completion. Discouragement came easily after witnessing classmates of his complete the program over the past year and a half, but he decided that he would still push forward. “During the pandemic, work and homelife overwhelmed me so much that I had to break from school, but at the beginning of 2022, I made a goal that by Spring 2023 I wanted to finish.” And with that, he put the work in and is now on track to meet that goal. “I really had to remind myself that everyone is on their own path, and my reasoning for falling behind was something completely out of my control.” Although Johnson is determined to make strides professionally, his goals for the future are mostly centered around increasing the time he spends with his family and serving his community. Ultimately, he’d like to achieve balance.
According to Ethan Johnson, the most important values in life are, first and foremost, to “treat every person you encounter as a completely autonomous human being with their own dreams, goals, fears, and insecurities.” He highlights how we often expect others to follow the script we’ve created in our heads without giving much thought to what they’re thinking, feeling, and going through. The second most important, he says, is to serve your family and community. “If we take care of other people, other people take care of us. Finally, Johnson believes that it is important to prioritize the things that bring the most value to your life. He wisely says, “Time is the most limited resource we have. We can never get it back once it passes. We should spend it doing things that are edifying to ourselves and others around us.” Ethan is a genuine soul with a limitless amount of love and wisdom to shower the world with. Though the rat race of life has hurled countless obstacles at him to take him out, he has and will continue to power through them and never stop running. His refusal to quit is, no doubt, inspirational and should be commended and shared.