It’s All About Family
I Agree with John Lewis

Over the past two weeks I have written two essays: The Magnificent Seven and Reflections on The Magnificent Seven. Those two articles dealt with my feelings about what Moh Moh wrote to me about my relationship with her family.

We are family. I view them as much as my family as my family living here in the States. Moh Moh, Ko Ko, Ti Ti, Snow, and Fatty are as dearly loved as I love my American family.

However, if they are my family, my three granddaughters’ classmates that attend school with them are my extended family. That raises the bar of putting money where my mouth is. Myanmar (Burma) is an emerging country. If there is any hope for Myanmar in the 21st century, it will be based in large part in educating the next generation. Education is the one thing that will assist them economically. help them develop, and allow them to compete on the world stage. While I can’t change everything, I can leave my mark upon my family and my extended family in Myanmar.

While some of you might read that last sentence and think that I’m a caring person. Okay, that is true, but why? Why do I care? Virtue. My caring is far more tied to my personal pain than it is to being virtuous. When I was a child in elementary school, I lived a happy life. I was an above average student and my parents were happily situated in an economically middle town in New Jersey.

Then my father was transferred to Pittsburgh, PA. Since my father was involved in WWII, he couldn’t go to college. Nevertheless, he wanted to make certain that his three boys were able to attend college. So, when he asked a real estate agent what community had the best schools, Mt. Lebanon was the answer. In fact, it was the 19th best school system in all of America. It was also the wealthiest community in Western Pennsylvania. My education in Mt. Lebanon taught me two things: I was dumb, and I was poor. That learning remained with me for half my life. One day, I realized that I was neither. That realization radically changed my Weltanschauung.

Next month, I will be 76, and I am still teaching. Why? I don’t want any of my students making the same error that I did. While that drive applies to students in America, it is equally true in Myanmar. I don’t want to pine away knowing someone feels as dumb or poor as I did. The first time was enough for me personally in my lifetime. Enter my most influential mentor, Bobby Kennedy.

Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy said,

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

My drive to raise a half million dollars so that I can purchase 1250 laptops and improve the Internet reception at the two schools where my granddaughters attend is the means of tearing “down walls of oppression and resistance.” That is my modus operandi. When I reach my initial goal of a half million dollars, I will expand my family to other schools in Taunggyi. Then I will expand to other cities like Mandalay, Bagan, or Yangon.

Interestingly, I happened upon the National Geographic magazine for December 2018. Two things caught my eye. One item was a haunting photo of John Lewis. The other was the title of the article, “We have to believe that we’re one people, one family.” Lewis was interviewed by Susan Goldberg who is the editor of National Geographic.

Lewis has an interesting adult life that spanned a lifetime starting with the March on Washington, to being beaten by the police on a civil rights march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and to leadership in Congress. Here is a person who risked his life for the cause of equality of all people. President Obama presented Lewis the Medal of Freedom award.

John Lewis

During winter break from teaching in 2019, I will be returning to Myanmar with 1250 laptops. I’ll invite John Lewis to become one of The Magnificent Seven and to visit a part of his and my family in Taunggyi, Myanmar.