And in the car, heading home, I cried. Just a little, but cried nonetheless.
All that work, all those uphill battles, and all those days where I swore that I was insane to bother... worth it. Completely worth it.
I sat in the back of Soldiers and Sailors in Oakland and listened to Gloria give her graduation speech. I looked at the sea of caps and gowns and knew the battles nearly of of those students had endured. The program listed the names of those who made it through, who overcame issues that lesser men and women would have fallen before.
It's easy to disparage those who come from urban backgrounds, from the welfare rolls, and from cushy little suburban homes where the paved road was soft. It's easy to snort in contempt at the single mother who's pregnant -- again. It's tempting, too, to tell some students to pull their heads out of their posteriors and get a clue.
It's not easy to remember that they only know the lives they have. Some of them have always been single parents, they've always had someone telling them to give up when the road is bumpy, and they know nothing about a world where you don't have to sleep in the bathtub on nights when the gangs are particularly active.
The ones who live such lives, who work hard, and who graduate into careers and into their futures have nothing but my deepest regard. They are amazing people.
Gloria's speech was simple. Two sentences stick with me the most, and they are ones I need to keep remembering:
If it's not good, make it good.
If it's not right, get it right.
Last night, sitting there, I realized that I had managed to "get it right" maybe just a bit more then I thought... and that I need to make a few more things in life "good" before I can count myself as the person I want to be.
And so I slipped out of the hall early, condemned to leave due to other's schedules. But it was better to slip out then fall apart in public, which I was perilously close to doing.
You see, readers, I was mentioned in her speech. Despite my no longer being a teacher there, despite my not having had her in class for what seems eons... I can only shake my head in wonder at it all.
Thank you, Gloria, and all of my students over the years, for giving me that chance to get it right and to make it good.