My grandfather was a large imposing man. At least that is what I was told. By day, he was a fisherman; in the evenings, he was a boxer. I grew up hearing stories about this quiet man. He was determined that his family would have all the things that are really important. These things weren’t riches or creature comforts; rather, they were the ideals that build strong character. Grandpa Francis did not speak many words, but his actions made clear what he expected. “Primeiro a familia” (family first), “trabalho duro” (hard work), and “servir a Deus e ao próximo” (serve God and your neighbor.)
The influence my Grandpa Francis’s legacy has had on my life may be showing up these days. I certainly embrace the values he taught. Perhaps the fighter is showing up in me as well. I would like to think of my response to the school finance challenges that we face as “just doing my job.” Still, Yael T. Abouhalkah, a columnist for the Kansas City Star, called me “gutsy.”
The gutsy descriptor had me thinking of the lessons I learned from by grandpa; not the quiet soft-spoken side of him, but rather the man who entered the boxing ring every night.
I tell my students that it is critical for all of us to stand up for what we believe. I believe strongly that public education is critical for all citizens to have access to the American dream. I live by straightforward, open, and transparent communication. If that’s gutsy, ok, I’ll accept that characterization.
Standing up for what you believe isn’t always easy. Education is so vitally important to every citizen, to our economy, and to thriving communities, that it’s worth stepping into the “ring,” even when you’d much rather be napping on a beach somewhere. I am proud to follow my grandpa’s example. I have but one prayer: “Lord, please don’t let me end up with those cauliflower-shaped ears!” Remember, “It’s Up to Us!”