Carl Rowan Gives Thanks for a teacher that Changed his Life

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Miss Thompson [a teacher I had when I was young] reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a piece of paper containing a quote attributed to Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. I listened intently as she read: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us."

More than 30 years later, I gave a speech in which I said that Frances Thompson had given me a desperately needed belief in myself. A newspaper printed the story, and someone mailed the clipping to my beloved teacher. She wrote me: "You have no idea what that newspaper story meant to me. For years, I endured my brother's arguments that I had wasted my life. That I should have married and had a family. When I read that you gave me credit for helping to launch a marvelous career, I put the clipping in front of my brother. After he'd read it, I said, 'You see, I didn't really waste my life, did I?'"

--Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation

2 Comments
Posted November 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. NoVA Scout wrote:

My favorite story about Carl Rowan (I hope it’s not apocryphal) involves an incident in which he was working in his yard in the Foxhall section of northwest Washington (a very upscale area, for those of you who are not familiar with it).  At this time, he had just returned from being Ambassador to Finland, and, I think, the first African American to hold Ambassadorial rank.  A car drove by a couple of times and finally stopped in front of Rowan’s house.  The driver hollered at Rowan to come over and said, “Boy, what do you charge to do the yardwork at this place?”  Rowan, without missing a beat, said, “Well, sir, this place I do for free.  But the lady who lives here lets me sleep with her.  For you I’d charge more than you could afford.”

November 24, 4:42 pm | [comment link]
2. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Thanks a great Carl Rowan story NoVA I had not heard it before.

November 24, 5:26 pm | [comment link]
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