MY TURN-My "June Gloom" came early this year, like in April. To those of you who enquired as to why I have been absent from CW, here is my explanation: there was nothing good to write about. We could call it "writers block," but it was more like "Life Block."
My CW colleagues have been doing a great job critiquing everything. I have often said during my last four years of writing for CityWatch, I am an equal opportunity critic and cheerleader. But lately, I found myself with little to cheer about.
LA experienced an election with a grand 20% turnout. The local politicians were, with a few exceptions, slinging mud and wasting too many trees to produce dull political literature that probably was largely unread. My poor mailman complained to me that it was worse than Christmas.
The national political atmosphere was growing more toxic by the day -- like a bad soap opera. Every time you turned on your TV or radio there was another scandal. This was depressing. I explained to Ken Draper, our patient publisher that I was too angry to write. For me, it was one of those times I wanted to go bed, pull the covers over my head and wake up in November 2018.
My actual pity party was really kind of boring and after several weeks of moping, it was over. But I still wasn't ready to write even though the weather had been glorious and there was still a lot for which to be grateful.
Then last Friday my grandson finished at Paul Revere Charter Middle School and I sat through what is now called a Culmination Ceremony (photo above). There were 700 plus eighth graders "culminating" so the ceremony was held at Palisades High School in order to have room for all the students, family and friends. We have all attended these rites of passage, sitting through innumerable speeches and the reading of hundreds of names – with some ceremonies more tedious than others.
Why was this one so inspiring for reasons other than a Grandmother's pride?
Paul Revere is located in one of the most affluent areas of Los Angeles: Brentwood. It is what is called a Mathematics, Science and Technology Magnet Center -- otherwise known as a STEM. This is a charter magnet under the LA School system but has many of the features of the charter schools.
Its student-body is made up of boys and girls from throughout the City. Last Friday, they celebrated their diversity. I wanted to take a video and send it to President Trump to tell him, "This is America."
The welcome was done in twenty different languages by native speakers in the class of 2017, including a new one for me...Amharic, which stems from Roman times and is spoken in 20 different countries.
The graduation theme was timely: "Courage Makes a Difference." The students were sincere and related to their class and its aspirations, but the standout for me, was a young man, Seok Woo Kim (known as Ben to his classmates.) A written copy of his speech was included in the program. You see, even though he gave his presentation verbally, he wanted to make sure the thousands in the audience would fully understand what he was saying…because he is deaf. He came from South Korea when he was in third grade. He did not understand English and hearing aids didn't improve his ability to hear. The theme "Courage Makes a Difference” is this young man's story. Until entering Paul Revere he had attended some classes for the deaf. There was no science or math there so he taught himself. When he asked to enter the general classes, he was told it would be too difficult.
He recalled his first day here in school and how isolated he felt, but he said to himself, "I can do this!" He began to ask his teachers in the regular classes to repeat their words; he was adept at lip reading and had confidence in his ability to be prepared and to participate. He made friends, helped others and was comfortable in this setting.
What a great lesson in overcoming adversity. He closed his speech with a quote from Winston Churchill, "If you lose wealth, then you lose little, if you lose reputation, then you lose a lot, but if you lose your courage, then you lose all." Needless to say, he received a standing ovation from both his class and the audience.
Usually one sits in the audience waiting to hear one’s own child's name called to receive a certificate, tuning out the rest. But I was fascinated by all of the names and ethnicities. There was no majority of Caucasians or, for that matter any particular race. If anything there were more Hispanic names than others but that included students from many countries. It was touching to see the class cheer their classmates when names were called.
This is the America I know and love. These kids, with their varied backgrounds, are all Americans. We are a country of immigrants and to lose that would cause us to lose one of the most important attributes that has made America great. I am sure that more than several "culminates" in that class will go on to do great things for this country.
Yes, we probably live in our own bubble in California. But there is a "can do" spirit here that will take us through these more than difficult times.
The recent Board of Education election was obscenely expensive, but now we will see how our schools can do a better job. Sure, Paul Revere is not perfect but the teachers and administrators who introduced their classes showed both respect and great affection for their respective "rambunctious" kids.
This day gave me hope for the next generation and that this great country will overcome whatever obstacles are put before it. We have survived for 260 years, and we are, as a nation, unstoppable.
So Ladies and Gentleman, I'm back! I really want to continue to share with you some "good news." There are many people in this City who give of themselves to various causes. If someone in your neighborhood or work or social group is doing something special let me know and we will share it with the thousands of CW readers.
I won't promise that I have lost my “critic” side all together, but I'm hoping for loads of suggestions from all of you out there. Recognition for above and beyond the call of duty is a great way to say, "THANK YOU."
As always comments welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
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