A memory of one of my favorite teachers
One of my favorite teachers was Hal Swafford. He was my high school AP US History teacher. Hal passed away several years ago, in October of 2013.
My most vivid memory of Hal is that once he was lecturing about complicity, perhaps about war, corruption, or malfeasance. Time, place, and setting are forgotten. But what I recall is how I was sitting on my hands attempting to warm them–because my fingers were cold and Oregon winter was biting. Mid-soliloquy Hal glanced at me, altered his story on-the-fly, and admonished our classroom about how there is a time for action–to say no, to resist, to take action, to speak out, to GET OFF YOUR HANDS AND STAND-UP FOR A CAUSE. Though Hal delivered his words overtly to the class, encrypted by the context of a morning lecture, I knew his message was directed privately at me…a message to be more than an academic automaton, a commandment to think and act rather than simply believe…a formula to foment change, and ultimately a message of hope, expectation, and encouragement that perhaps one day I could lead by example. After freeing my palms from the plastic desk chair and wriggling fingers back into circulation, I glanced at the sign Hal hung next to the chalkboard that said, “Pride is doing the best you can do when nobody is watching”. Though so many decades have passed since I interacted with Hal, his “silent” messages about initiative, diligence, and quality sans external recognition are eternal. They are the heart of authenticity. A drumbeat that I try to follow always, an anthem that I believe makes all the difference.