“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”-Dr. John Hope Franklin
I’m thinking about my son living in the heat of Southeastern India with his girlfriend, their adopted dog and adopted cat. They decided to teach in India since it would give them the opportunity to learn about people, different cultures and travel; something that would be quite difficult to do if they had children and the responsibility of a mortgage. They are right. Today, the lovely and gentle historian, John Hope Franklin was born in 1915 in Oklahoma. I remember seeing him quite a few times on PBS. Not only was he an historian, writer, educator, I remember listening to him talk about his love for and cultivation of African violets.
Dr. Hope’s love of the flower, his love of learning, his love of traveling all stemmed from his teacher/librarian-mom and lawyer-dad who took the family with him summers when he taught summer schools all over and from those campus bases, the family would continue to travel. Both of his parents cultivated plants in NYC on their window sills, gardenias and African violets.
“As a distinguished scholar, he has used his authority and expertise to foster political and social change. And as a teacher, he has inspired his many students and colleagues to delve deeper into the causes and remedies of inequality, bigotry, and oppression.”–jhfc, duke university
Dr. Franklin lived a long life and assisted many of the well-known figures of the 20th Century as they worked hard for equality and Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall, Dr. King, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and many others. His books taught many of us real history.
I know my son would agree with Dr. Hope’s assessment of travel and plans to use the “glories of” his “journey” wherever he goes and whatever he does in life. Safe travels, my son!
Education…What is it good for? (Now when I thought, “Education…What is it good for?” I sang it in my head to the tune of “War” recorded by both The Temptations and Edwin Starr circa 1970.) As I took my walk through the park this morning and out loud expressed gratitude with “Thank you” to the boats, the water, the blue sky and white clouds, the park workers, the benches, the trees, the seagulls, ducks and Canadian geese, I felt like Emily in Wilder’s gorgeous play, “Our Town.” Emily’s monologue, “Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?” John Masefield’s Sea Fever also sprung from the recesses of my mind as I strolled…”I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky…” All this is going somewhere…to Education…What is itgood for? I know I was lucky having a mom who loved to read and encouraged me to read and write since forever. She also modeled the importance of education in so many ways, especially when she returned to college when I was about 6 and finished her B.A. after 10 years going to night school. Mom and Dad wanted me to be an educated person, a compassionate person, a well-rounded person and college and academics opened me up to worlds beyond my family, school and neighborhood. That’s what my husband and I wanted for our children…an education that would add to their humanity, not prepare them for a job. We never said don’t major in this or do major in that as a means to getting a career or a job. We just wanted them to love learning and continue learning after college & post-graduate degrees…to learn every day and spread the joy of learning. So, as I’m walking and I think of “Our Town,” or Thornton Wilder or John Masefield or “Sea Fever,” I wonder…who knows what I am referring to? When my husband and I hear dialogue in a movie or a TV show that is nuanced and we get it and know that it’s referring to a book or a tidbit of history or some famous person or a song or a poem or whatever, I wonder, who knows what this is in reference to? As I do my own version of “stream of consciousness,” I know I am heavily influenced by the writings or films by filmmaker Alain Resnais or writer/filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet or writer Gertrude Stein, again…thanks to education. Many times we move through our days, months, years, lives without a conscious thought to who, what, where, when or why we think of certain things; or think in a certain way; education is always there for us. It makes an experience a better experience; a movie, a better movie; a conversation, a better conversation, a book, a better book; an interpretation, a better interpretation. Education doesn’t leave us and as we age, we may forget things, but somehow, they dig their way up again. Education is integral to every part of my life and I firmly believe in a strong academic, liberal arts education. Thanks, Mom…Thanks, Dad and thank you to everyone I’ve met along the way who in their own unique way added to my education. Walt Whitman, in the 1800s, got it right in his poem, “There Was a Child Went Forth:” (Only an education would bring that poem to the forefront of my mind…Education…What is it good for?..but you have to sing it!)…
There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,
And that object became part; of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories,
and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow’s pink-faint litter,
and the mare’s foal and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there,
and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him,
Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms and the fruit afterward,
and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road,
And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse
of the tavern whence he had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d, and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls, and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.
His own parents, he that had father’d him and she that had
conceiv’d him in her womb and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him.
The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table,
The mother with mild words, clean her cap and gown, a
wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by,
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust,
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture, the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d, the sense of what is real,
the thought if after all it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time,
the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
men and women crowding fast in the streets, if they are not flashes and specks what are they?
The streets themselves and the facades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves, the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland seen from afar art sunset, the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and
gables of white or brown two miles off,
The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide,
the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint
away solitary by itself, the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud,
These became part of that child who went forth every day,
and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.