Hillary Clinton — On Feeling American & Forrest Wright
I wrote the blog below on January 8 2009. While I was born in Argentina, served in its navy , lived in Mexico and now I live in Vancouver, BC I still feel somewhere inside that I am an American. It was all about going to St. Edward’s High School, in Austin in the late 50s. I grew up with Conway Twitty and Brenda Lee on LBJ’s Austin radio station. We watched Walter Cronkite and Have Gun Will Travel. We had one, exactly one black student in our all white (lots of latinos , though) student body. And best of all I remember being in our upperclassmen’s pool hall watching the TV debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
I believe that Americans tomorrow Tuesday will vote with their head (and some a tad with their hearts) and that Wednesday you (we?) will have the first female president.
The alumni of St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas (from 1925 until 1975 the last year when the school closed but the adjacent St. Edward’s University continued to the present day) is gearing up for a mass reunion (those of us who are alive and willing) in June. For more info on this for any Edwardian Tiger that might lurk in this blog click here.
I have written at length and several times on my good years at the school. And in particular I have written of my teachers who with a few exceptions were Brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. I have written about them here, here and here.
But today I will write about a man who was not a Brother of the Holy Cross. Forrest Wright taught us civics, English and was the baseball coach of our team that won many state championships under his leadership. He was mostly a serious man. He had very red hair and when he got angry his face would turn the same colour. He was a perfectionist. He had a penchant for slacks with crisp, just-ironed creases and black cordovan leather shoes. I was just a tad afraid of him. There is no doubt that I respected him as much as I have any other man that earned my respect.
Of late as I read about Obama (Rosemary and I were always glued on election night and on the debates) I feel very American. I have been reminiscing a lot of my four years in Texas.
Today I looked into my 1961 (my graduating year) Edwardian year book. The year book (our class yearbook, my yearbook) is dedicated to President John F. Kennedy. The dedication reads:
The students of Saint Edward’s High School are proud to make their Edwardian dedication to the First Man of the Land; to one who has been brought up in the same traditions of Democracy as they; to one who has made real and concrete faith in the American ideal that equality of person is the basis for American Democracy; to one who has won his office through public “trial” on the most important issues which have ever faced the Commander-in-Chief of our country; to one who has the fire of the Founding Father, the knowledge of things present based on things past, the enthusiasm and vigor of the young-in-heart, the determination of a man who must prove himself, the faith, the humility and charity of a Christian — the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.
The Students of Saint Edward’s High School
I must not have given much thought to that page and the contents in 1961 but today as I write this I am moved by the dedication and a realization that I still feel that Kennedy was my president simply because I was an American. Perhaps it has all to do with Forrest Wright. He taught me English and he taught me to write. But he also taught me civics. Some of his classes introduced us to such mundane differences that exist between a misdemeanor and a felony with the subsequent months or years of incarceration that each came with. He taught us the difference between first and second degree murder and all about habeas corpus. Wright taught us about the American Constitution and how politics in the US worked with caucuses and primaries. I remember how he gesticulated with the thumb and index finger of his right hand to make a point. In combination with Brother Francis’s class of American history I learned quite a lot (and well) about the United States. Both men taught me pride in the concept of democracy and our ability to put faith in the system.
Forty seven years later with the nearness of Barack Obama’s inauguration I find that I don’t seem to feel less proud, less hopeful or less American even though I am really an Argentine with a love for Mexico, Texas and Canada.