Choice, Inspiration and Civics Lesson
September 8th, 2009 by Sonja

I still remember the moment when I first realized that I had a choice about whether or not I could finish high school and get a college degree.

I was about twenty-five years old, living on my own in Washington, DC with bachelors degree in political science and international studies.  I was musing about whether or not to continue on in graduate studies of some sort and it struck me like a lightening bolt … wow.  Education was entirely my choice.  It really was a choice and it was mine to make.  That had never been part of my paradigm before.  Never.  I had always known since I was tiny that I would grow up, finish high school and go to college.  It’s just what people in my family did.  The only question to be answered was, “In what should I get my degree?”

I spent a good deal of time agonizing over that.  I was going to (at various times) study oceanography, be a nurse, be an anthropologist (find the missing link), be an international lawyer, and a variety of other things too numerous to even remember.  When I was in ninth grade my earth science teacher was an amazing fellow who LOVED rocks and was so enthusiastic about them that I still remember most of what I learned in that class.  I still remember how rivers age and what an oxbow is and where glaciers form and what the different kinds of rocks are.  We measured beach erosion by going to the ocean and measuring a beach over the course of 24 hours.  I had amazing teachers and I knew I was in that adventure for the long haul.  So were my brothers.

I can still remember the agonizing phone conversations when my youngest brother was near to graduating from community college.  My parents thought that he might not want to go on to a four year degree and did not want to pressure him into it, but they didn’t want to close that door unnecessarily either.  He, on the other hand, kind of wanted to go and didn’t want to tell them because he didn’t want to add an unnecessary financial burden to their plate.  I had to respect the confidentiality of both parties and yet get them to talk to each other honestly so that they could hear each other because I knew he’d end up where he needed to be.  And he did end up going to a great four year college and got his bachelors degree in Automotive Engineering Technology (designing cars).

My parents understood what I was just beginning to realize.  Education is a choice.  It’s an important choice, but it is a choice.   It’s one that we don’t always appreciate when we’re young.

When I was in elementary and high school the technology did not exist for the President of the US to speak all of the nation’s children at the same time.  The best he might have done would have been a radio address and that just wasn’t done unless it was for emergency purposes back in my time.  The President only addressed adults back then.  Adults talked to adults and (as my grandfather was fond of reminding me) children were seen but not heard.  So I wonder how I would have heard the message that President Obama is going to give the nation’s children in about half an hour.  I think at the time, I would have heard blah blah blah … sort of like all the adults on a Charlie Brown special.  Who wouldn’t stay in school and work hard?  Duh …

Now, though, I’ve lived a little and I know better.  There are a lot of children who live on the crisp edge of the envelope between poverty and riches.  They live teetering between hope and despair.  They live mostly without any good role models of how to do something day in and day out (like get up over and over and over again every morning to go to work).  They don’t have the privilege of living with people who will praise them their good grades or even know when they get them.  Sometimes this is because the parents are working 3 jobs, sometimes it’s because the parents are absent.  Whatever the reason, these children are desperate for a role model who will tell them to keep going.  That it’s cool to stay in school.  And these children are all over.  Yes, most of them are in the projects, but some are in the burbs.  And they all deserve to hear from the Role Model in Chief … regardless of his or her political party, telling them to stick with it.  That they’ll be okay if they just try a little bit harder every day.  This is a good thing.  And I know that the LightKids and I are going to be watching right along with everyone else.

One Response  
  • cindy writes:
    September 11th, 20097:49 amat

    ditto that here.

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