Every weekend we video chat with our son who is away at college. He is doing great with his schoolwork, which we knew he would do. And even thou he has cerebral palsy he is figuring out all the life skills issues which to us was the bigger issue.
One of the reasons he chose the school he is at was because of the strong debate team. He has always been involved in speech and debate and wanted to be able to continue competing at the college level.
A few weeks ago, we talked after he had competed over the weekend in a tournament. He had not done as well as he had hoped for. If you are unfamiliar with how these things are run in each round they are given a topics and they are put on either side of the argument. They then have to defend or speak against the issue. While most of the questions are on serious in nature, they also throw in a few less serious ones. In my son and his partner’s last round the question was, should the government spend money to encourage inter-racial marriages.
He didn’t tell us what their arguments were but at the end of the round the judge gives each of the teams a critic of their arguments and lets them know what they did well and what they can improve upon for next time.
This judge informed the teams that their mistake in defending the issue was that they argued as if marriage had some intrinsic value other than economical.
While my son told of the shock of this judge’s evaluation, it made me think. I believe marriage has more value than both parents ability to work and help to better their economic standings, but can I articulate what those reasons are? I think I can, and I think that Families dealing with special needs are the greatest example of the value.
I’ll admit it. But please, don’t tell my mother.
I wasn’t much of a student in high school. It’s not that I couldn’t do the work – or even that the work was very difficult. The reality was that I exerted the least amount of effort, and did the minimum amount of work, expecting only to get by and do only what was required of me.
Looking back now, my whole high school career could probably be summed up with a variation of a famous quip:
I did so much, with so little, for so long, that I learned how to do practically anything better than anyone else with nothing.
Of course, my parents gave me “the speech” on numerous occasions. Teachers cajoled and encouraged. They all lamented my wasted potential, but I regularly thought they were wasting their time reminding me of the facts.
Curiously, I find myself giving my son the same speech – even using some of the same words. Shockingly, my inspiring pep talks often seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there was one teacher with whom I connected and whose influence left a lasting impression.
My science teacher, Mr. Boomer knew how to motivate his students. His enthusiasm was contagious. Truth be told, he was an eccentric and the kids were drawn to him. He loved what he did – and it showed. He presented things in a fresh way and communicated more effectively than my parents and every other teacher – combined. He had that almost magical quality that every teacher wants to possess.
Or did he?
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Boomer was mentoring me. He took an interest in what I was doing and personalized the lessons to connect with my temperament.
Although he’s been dead for over forty years, I’ve been seeing and reading quite a bit about the Reverend Martin Luther King in the popular press lately. Much of this is attributable to the classification of February as “Black History” month -- but the majority is connected to America’s historic election of its first African-American president.
Many of the stories reference Dr. King’s soaring “I have a Dream” speech. If you’ve never heard or watched it, I would suggest you do. You can pull up the file on youtube.com or download it on iTunes. It is awe-inspiring not just for its words, but also given the time in which it was given.
It was August 28, 1963. America was in a time of great social upheaval. The Supreme Court had only recently order the desegregation of the public schools. In Washington, the Civil Rights Act was still a year away from passage. Racism was alive and well. Hundreds of thousands of citizens descended on the Mall in D.C. to make their case for racial equality. Prior to the Reverend King’s speech, musicians Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed. Actor Charlton Heston spoke. It was a scene!
Admittedly, I wasn’t even born at the time of the address, but as I grew up, I was able to see some of the changes that King helped the country make. Because the Reverend King stated the problems and spoke of solutions, Americans were finally able to catch a vision for what needed to be done.
I think the disability community is in need of an “I have a dream” type moment.
I think I have mentioned in a previous post that I am a channel flicker. I love it, but it drives my wife crazy! I will watch three or four shows at a time, mostly things I have seen before so I don’t need to see every moment of the show. I can just flick back and forth between the best parts of each show and get the satisfaction of seeing all of them. Sometimes the shows I am watching mold together is some strange way to create a theme. This isn’t limited to movies, it can include just about anything; cartoons, concerts or even soccer on the Spanish channel. It can be a night of super-heroes or of war stories. Even if these stories are about different wars, they can all underscore the same theme of self-sacrifice or camaraderie. Some nights the things I watch can be so different that I can’t help but notice contrasting views, and wonder if I am the only one who sees them.
The other night I could not find anything I wanted to watch, so I clicked and clicked until I was so far up the list that I reached the music channels. On one channel there was a concert by a very popular band that is selling out stadiums around the world. The camera mostly focused on the lead singer/guitar player running from one side of the stage to the other, full of energy, screaming out the lyrics as the audience enthusiastically bounced up and down with energy that only people much younger than me have. I liked their music; they sounded good and the energy was infectious. I wished I could be in the audience enjoying what was surely a good show.
On the next channel was “Guitar Centers Sessions”. This is a small venue concert and interview. Most of the time it focuses on a band or individual who is a legend, or at least has been around for a long while. That night it was an interview with someone I had never heard of, but who is apparently is a legend to some. He sat in the chair talking about his life, including its many mistakes and missteps.
The contrast between these two channels was amazing to me. I flicked back and forth to watch them both, one highlighting the youth of today, full of energy, the other reflecting on life much later down the very same path. Both men tattooed head to toe, voices raspy, one from the years of cigarettes and hard living, the other from yelling out lyrics in giant stadiums.