Friday, July 31, 2009

My Brain has Turned to Jelly

A brief review of this week's postings reveals that I am a shallow and not very creative girl.

I like to believe that is not a true reflection of my skills and talents (or skill and talent?) but I've spent so much time thinking this week (I really have; the workshop presenters have been most amazing) that my tiny brain has turned to jelly. Or mush. Or something.

And that's a bit embarrassing because here I am, sitting around in Mark Twain's house, using up his internet, setting my feet on the furniture, and drinking him out of house and home. For heaven's sake, at least I could find something clever to say.

But I've got nothing.

I do know that Samuel Clemens was a fascinating and complicated man. He was funny and good and thoughtful. And he was often disappointed by his fellow Americans, though it would seem that he never gave up hope we could fix the mash-up we'd made of things.

To whit: In 1885, Clemens received a letter from Walter P. McGuinn, a student at Yale Law School. McGuinn was struggling to pay tuition for school and was working three jobs while he attended classes. McGuinn had heard of Clemens' good deeds on behalf of young blacks and so, out of the blue, he wrote Clemens and asked for help.

Clemens quietly arranged to pay tuition and board for McGuinn. Clemens wrote to the Dean of the Law School at Yale: "I do not believe I would very cheerfully help a white student who would ask a benevolence of a stranger, but I do not feel so about the other color. We have ground the manhood out of them, & the shame is ours, not theirs; & we should pay for it."

McGuinn was a graduate of Lincoln University. He would be the first African-American to graduate from Yale Law School. Some years later, lawyer McGuinn was working for the NAACP, where he mentored another young, black lawyer. That lawyer was Thurgood Marshall, who would later appear before the Supreme Court to argue Brown v. Board of Education. And then Marshall joined that Court himself, as the first African-American Justice.

Though it's just one story, it's not an isolated example. So I must admit that I'm rather in awe of Mr. Clemens.

1 comment:

Nichole said...

See the power of one good deed. Many people think that they can't do anything to help people out, but doing just one thing could have quite an impact. I wish I had the money to put some children through college, but alas, I will be begging the government for money to put my kids through college. And on that note, I just noticed that the word verification is payedu. It sounds like a student loan company.