When a legislator wishes to break away from discussion of a pending bill to recognize a visitor to the House, Senate or a committee, he takes what is called a point of personal privilege.
Accordingly, I would like to set aside for the moment any discussion of budgetary shortfalls, state board abuses, our absentee governor, and kissing congressmen to take a point of personal privilege to talk about my grandson’s high school. I will return to the more sordid subject of state politics in due course, but at the moment, this is more important to me.
Many of my readers already know where I live but they may not know where my grandchildren attend school and I’m happy to keep it that way.
My grandson was one of several Summa Cum Laude students (a grade point average of 3.75-4.0) who were recognized in the school’s annual honors program. Even better, of 300 students in 10th grade, he ranked 28th. I am extremely proud of him and, I believe, justifiably so.
Sitting there watching some of our brightest, most motivated kids being recognized for their academic achievements during the 90-minute awards ceremonies, I was struck by two things:
First, I did not see the first member of our local school board at the program. They may have been there but I never saw them. I found that most disappointing.
Second, and to me, the most significant and most touching, was near the end, following the recognition of group and individual athletic achievements. One by one, about a half-dozen students were called up to receive awards for their contributions to team spirit, encouragement, participation and undying loyalty to their school and classmates.
These were the Special Ed children, most of whom had Down syndrome. One had to be led by the hand to the podium to receive her award. The applause given them by the student body would choke up the most callous observer and their enthusiasm would bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye of the most cynical political reporter. I know. Anyone who knows me knows how rare it is for me to be rendered speechless but today I found myself unable to speak for several minutes because of the overflow of emotion that I experienced as I watched those magnificent youngsters receive their awards.
These children are the true innocents among us. They know nothing of discord, racial hatred, violence, mortgages or political corruption—or of the stress and tension that accompany these and other concerns that the rest of us encounter on a daily basis. They know only love in their hearts for their teachers, their parents and their fellow students. And that love was channeled right back at them today when, grinning from ear to ear, they waved their certificates at the cheering student body. A collective, involuntary “aww” escaped everyone’s mouth when one of the students turned back to hug her teacher.
I can’t help believing that these genuinely beautiful individuals are closer to God than any of the rest of us, that they carry the purest spirit of love in their hearts the way our churches and synagogues tell us that we should. Their simple trust and unquestioned devotion towers above anything we could ever hope to achieve on our best days.
The Internet has abounded with heartwarming videos of these kids inserted into football and basketball games near the end of play and being allowed to score the “winning” touchdown (even though in reality, the team was down by several touchdowns) or score a basket (meaningless in terms of the final outcome but so very important to that one kid).
In one such instance, the player missed shot after shot but the opposing player, whose team was hopelessly behind with no chance of winning, nevertheless kept rebounding and giving him the ball to try again until he finally made the bucket. In each case, without exception, the special players who got the chance of a lifetime to play were treated to explosive cheers and standing ovations from appreciative and supportive student bodies. They are wonderful stories and the videos deserve to go viral. The videos not only make us feel good for that special player in particular, but they also renew our faith in our youth in general.
But sometimes the story doesn’t occur on a playing field or on a hardwood court.
Today was not a sporting event; there were no touchdowns and no baskets. But there was deserved recognition in the form of those certificates and those students were just as appreciative as the ones who were given the opportunity to play those precious few moments for their teams.
And so were we.
To the school administrators and teachers who saw to it that these kids—who ask nothing more than to be accepted and who haven’t learned to take, only how to give of themselves—were not overlooked, that they were included and recognized for their loyalty, their contributions and their school spirit:
A class act all the way.