Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Rights We Take For Granted

Posted by bhogg on November 8, 2009

I understand this story is true, but it bears a significant message regardless. This paraphrase is drawn from a 2007 speech by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee about a teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas and referenced by him at the Republican National Convention.

In September 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom. 

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks. They obviously looked around and asked, ‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’ 

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’ 

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’ 

‘No,’ she said. 

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’ 

She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’ 

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. 

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room. 

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’ 

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. 

Twenty-seven (27) War Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

More details can be found at Snopes.com

Each of those young students and fellow staffers also learned a lesson about leadership and the power of storytelling that day. As can we.

It would be great to share similar stories you have heard.

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21 Responses to “Rights We Take For Granted”

  1. David Heard said

    Thank you for your kind words Elizabeth and others who have stopped me and said heart warming things about the poem Ron Wallace at the Aurora printed .
    I drafted it very late in the week and barely got a copy to him and it was hand written .
    Some words were a bit sketchy and a change happened to the poem but I believe the message still got out . I hope to post the original version on the “Step In time ” site soon .
    I had the wonderful gift on Thursday November 12 to find out my Grandfather ,whom the poem was about ,not only served for the British Forces during World War One ,but he was part of the Canadian Army in World War Two .
    Even though my Grandfather was deaf from shell blasts and troubled by the memories he still got involved here on Canadian soil doing his part .
    I wish I could tell my Grandfather how proud I am of him and his courage and to tell all his commrades and fellow troops .
    But I guess I really have by writing and will tell as many as I can moving forward .

    ” Peace In “

  2. Robert the Bruce said

    Not that I think it should be used against someone in a negative way, there is a “Poppy protocol”. Remember the Legion comes from military-based people and the military has protocols and traditions.

    http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=teach_resources/poppy

    Fuimus

  3. fed up said

    It amazes me that someone can sit and listen to a 20 minute debate at coucil and then ask the most ridiculous question, the answer to which has just been bantered back and forth and back and forth. Perhaps she is not listening at all. But to ask the time at which the remembrance day service takes place is beyond belief. Any kid in Grade 2 will tell you that it is 11 o’clock on Nov 11th. Stupid is as stupid does.

  4. Broderick Epps said

    Anonymous wrote ” Watching last nights Council meeting on TV I really wonder how certain councillors are trying to get the positive press by promoting Rememberance Day. First Gaertner asked what time on Wednesday does the service happen at.Gee how about the 11th hour 11th day of the 11th month. Sometimes it is better not to ask questions that will make you look dumb.”
    Should anyone be surprised by Ms. Gaertner’s depth of knowledge on anything. Just listen to her contribution to any debate that doesn’t involve saving trees.I really believe my 10 year old can articulate an argument better. She highlights the mistake the voters made last election.

  5. Elizabeth Bishenden said

    My Auroran arrives on Thursdays.. after all the best postings.

    David, your poem is beautiful. You have captured what many of us feel as we realise that the men and women who served us in past wars are leaving our lives.

    Thank you.

  6. White Knight said

    To Someone Who Loves this Town More than Politics:
    In response to “As for “poppy protocol”…” I think you are right; and if they find such a protocol they will use it to crucify, won’t they?

  7. White Knight said

    To Anonymous Nov 11 @ 1:23
    I have worn a poppy every year for pretty much all my life. I am not sure exactly how long but I do remember my father pinning one on my dress every year from when I was just a little girl. I have never been aware that I should always wear my poppy on the left lapel. Sometimes I put it on the left, sometimes on the right and sometimes in the middle on a scarf if I am wearing a leather jacket which I cannot puncture successfully.
    I work in a department of 31 individuals… all women and I am the only one who sports a poppy for Remembrance Day.
    I would like to suggest as politely as I can that you get down from your pulpit where you criticize for no good reason and just shut up. Or if you really find that impossible, why don’t you go ask Wendy Gaertner where she has been all her life that she has to ask at what time Remembrance Day services are held.

  8. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    I want to thank Evelyn for her honesty, I too wondered about the two poppies but this clears it up.

    Regardless I fail to see where wearing two poppies is a crime, or is worth bring up in this discussion.

    I too liked the way the Prince of Wales chose to wear two, and the symbolism it brought.

    In fact Veterans Affairs Canada released a new pin this year that actually incorporates two poppies and a maple leaf.

    The included card outlined the significance of the symbols:

    The gold maple leaf represents Canada.
    The red poppy in the foreground represents those Canadians who served their country in times of war, military conflict and peace.
    The red poppy in the background represents those who served in Canada and all who played a vital supporting role at home.

    The intertwining of the three elements symbolizes the unity and strength that Canadians have developed as a result of sacrifice in times of war and peace.

    Perhaps two poppies helps better emphasize the different kinds of service that Canadians have been, and continue to be involved in.

    As for “poppy protocol” I’m sure Evilina or Her Worship can find it written somewhere.

  9. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    My poppy always seems to slip away. So,last night I carefully pinned it to the lapel before ptting on my jacket. I wondered while I was pinning it which side it should be on. If I’d been wearing the jacket, being right-handed it would probably have gone on the left . But I did not know. I had a Town of Aurora pin on the left lapel so I put the poppy on the right. There was an extra poppy on the desk in front of me at the Town Hall so I pinned that one on as well. I saw someone wearing two recently and thought it looked neat. I wore them both again today. I’ve lived a long time and never heard of a poppy protocol.

    So that’s the story..

  10. Elizabeth Bishenden said

    Today on CBC Radio 1, there was a piece about the Canadian Letters and Images Project. The projects’ website is http://www.canadianletters.ca.

    The objective of the Canadian Letters and Images Project is to let Canadians tell their own story with their own words and images by creating a permanent on-line archive which preserves Canada’s wartime correspondence, photographs, and other personal materials, from the battlefront and from the homefront.

    What is wonderful is that when people make materials available to the project, the actual letters and photographs are returned in a short period of time to their owners. In some cases, the materials need not even leave the possession of their owners as instructions are given on how to make suitable copies. The materials are copied, and made available on-line as digital images.

    If you have materials you would like to make available to the Canadian Letters and Images Project, you can contact them via their website.

  11. Anonymous said

    To Anonymous Nov 11th.2009
    Thank you for commenting on someone else’s anomymous ( 8:16AM )regarding that Councillor Buck did not know how to wear a poppy. At least she walked into the council meeting with one on whereas the GOS were given them by the mayor once they got to the council meeting

  12. Anonymous said

    Watching last nights Council meeting on TV I really wonder how certain councillors are trying to get the positive press by promoting Rememberance Day. First Gaertner asked what time on Wednesday does the service happen at.Gee how about the 11th hour 11th day of the 11th month. Sometimes it is better not to ask questions that will make you look dumb.
    Then the mayor states that this is to remember veterans. Glad Councillor Buck straightened her out. This is to honour those who gave their lives for their country as Councillor Buck stated. The wagon was pretty full with all of these folks jumping on it.
    Where were they Saturday night at the Rememberance Day service at the Legion?

    It’s too bad that Ms. Buck does not know how to properly wear the Poppy. The Poppy should be worn on the left side lapel. She was wearing on the right. She also was wearing 2 Poppies – perhaps she is emulating HRH Prince Charles – unfortunitly, he was wearing a Poppy from the UK and the other from Canada.

  13. Robert the Bruce said

    August 1889, my grandfather (on father’s side) is born in Bolton, Lancs. England. 1910, his family (mother, father and a number of brothers and sisters) decide to move to a small industrial town in south-west Ontario. September 14, 1915 my grandfather and one of his brothers enlist in the 91st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). They left their young brides to fight for King and country. After training and overseas deployment, they are transferred from the 91st Battalion as it becomes a unit for dispersal to other battalions. As the war drags on, they eventually find themselves in the trenches of France and Belgium. They participated in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras (Vimy Ridge) and the Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). My grandfather was wounded by scrapnel after which he lost movement in his left arm. Eventually he made his way back home and was medically discharged. His brother also survived and came home to Canada.

    Years later, my grandfather maintained a military association to the local regiment that his original CEF battalion became, rising to rank of sergeant. His photo remains today in the sergeant’s mess. My grandfather passed away when I was only 5 years old, but I understand that he did not speak about what he witnessed in WWI. Luckily, the records are available for researchers to get copies of the enlistment and discharge forms as well as the dispatches.

    Lest we forget….

    Fuimus

  14. Anonymous said

    Watching last nights Council meeting on TV I really wonder how certain councillors are trying to get the positive press by promoting Rememberance Day. First Gaertner asked what time on Wednesday does the service happen at.Gee how about the 11th hour 11th day of the 11th month. Sometimes it is better not to ask questions that will make you look dumb.
    Then the mayor states that this is to remember veterans. Glad Councillor Buck straightened her out. This is to honour those who gave their lives for their country as Councillor Buck stated. The wagon was pretty full with all of these folks jumping on it.
    Where were they Saturday night at the Rememberance Day service at the Legion?

  15. Elizabeth Bishenden said

    In our family, we have been fortunate to find the story of the sacrifice of war living on.

    By fortunate, I mean we have heard stories, rather than lived the experience.

    In 2004, I asked my Mother In Law if her cousin, Bill, would be interested in speaking to my 7 year old son about his WW2 experiences. Bill was a fighter pilot for the RCAF. My Mother In Law noted that Bill had never wanted to talk about the war but that she’d ask. Bill agreed to talk to my son. The date was set for a November lunch at HoJos. Many older cousins gathered for visit, and Jack walked over from the neighbourhood school.

    Because the stage was set, many of the older people had some stories about life in Canada during WW2. Bill was the main event, though, and when he talked to my son,the table fell silent, realizing they were going to get some glimpses into his secrets. Bill brought photos, facts, and stories. He didn’t bring a single opinion. But it was a start. Both Bill and my son had an eye-opening experience.

    My son realized that fighter pilots were ordinary men. He learned that in extraordinary times, people do what is required of them.

    Even better, Bill realized his story is important. Since talking to my son, he has spoken more to his family and he has connected with other veterans. He’s given his name to petitions about war and Canada’s involvement. He’s had the chance to realize that when he tells his own story, he gets to be his own man. He gets back his voice, and he doesn’t have to represent the entire Armed Forces. He gets to be Bill.

  16. Nigel Kean said

    My father, Arthur Kean, fought in Burma during the war for the British Army.Although he did get wounded, he stayed to fight another couple of years before the war in Burma ended.He really never spoke that much about the war but after my mother died, they were married for 54 years, my Dad opened up a little. He would tell me that he never thought that he would get back to Scotland as the war went on. The odd free time that he had, he would volunteer to drop supplies from the aircraft behind the enemy lines.
    To me, my Father was my hero and he is the reason that I joined the Legion 31 years ago. He, with so many other vets, is the reason that we have the freedom that we have today.
    My Father was killed in a car accident 8 years ago. On November 11th I will again thank him, along with all of the many brave men and women who fought for us so we can be free. I hope that we will never forget how important that day is.

  17. White Knight said

    If you are interested read some of the world war 1 poets: Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brook and Siegfried Sassoon for example. They sure made a lasting impression on me when I read them in grammar school.

  18. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we shall remember.

    When I was a child Big Ben was broadcast throught the land striking the hour. Traffic stopped, children stood by their desks and people everywhere bowed their heads and stood silent for the full minute contemplating the full horror of the sacrifice.

    That was before the Second World War. People are only lately aware of the full horror of that war. The men who were there were so traumatised by the horror they had witnessed could never speak of it. They were haunted for the rest of their lives.

    We did not know then that if a man went out of his mind from un-ending shells bursting over his head and turned to run, he would be shot on the spot by his own officer.

    We had plenty of daily reminders of the horror of war, Amputees, lungs destroyed by mustrad gas. We saw the effect of shell-shock.

    Only recently a television feature revealed the dead were buried where they fell. Trenches were simply filled in over them.

    Almost a hundred years later, we are still sending young men, hardly more than boys and girls to be blown to pieces by road-side bombs in a place that might as well be on another planet for all we understand of their culture.

    On Wednesday, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a small service will be held at the Aurora Cenotaph.

  19. Anonymous said

    I was at the Cenataph on Sunday as to me it is the most important day for all of us who have the freedom that we cherirh today. It was great to see all of the veterans who attended the wreath laying. It was also great to see all of the men and women who currently serve in Canada’s Armed Forces take part in the service.
    The only negative was to watch the mayor and her group of 5 minus McEachren walk down the path and lay a wreath. This honour is normally for the mayor only but I think that this year the mayor wanted to show solidarity in her followers. Where was Buck,McRoberts and Collins-Markas? That would have been the true show of solidarity rather than this farce.

  20. Something Fishy in Aurora said

    Thanks for this topic.

    One video I always remember to watch this time of year is by Terry Kelly. A Pittance of Time.

    Here is a link to the video for those who may not have seen it before.

    http://www.terry-kelly.com/pittance/pittance_en_video.htm

    The background story.

    http://www.terry-kelly.com/pittance/pittance_en.htm#

  21. David Heard said

    I would ask that you respectfully read a poem that I hope will be published in this weeks edition of the Auroran .
    I am doing my best to honor the spirit of the brave men and women of yesterday in a work titled “The Silent Hero “.
    Every time we have a chance to respect those who have given so much is a positive step forward .

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