April 14th, 2014

The 2014 Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year

Faith Majors, 8th grade English/Language Arts Teacher at Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie, Maryland received the 2014 Christine D. Sarbanes Award on April 12, 2014 at the Maryland Letters About Literature Awards Ceremony. She has graciously allowed us to reprint her acceptance speech:

Good Morning.
 
This award realizes one of my life’s ambitions—to be recognized as an outstanding teacher. It is with gratitude and a deep sense of humility that I accept this award.

Faith’s students congratulate their teacher.

I would like to thank the Maryland Humanities Council and the Sarbanes Family for this great honor and for promoting the importance of reading and writing at large. I would like to thank my family and friends for their continued love, support and encouragement.
 
I would also like to thank all of my colleagues from whom I’ve learned so much, who’ve mentored me and given me fellowship and guidance. It is truly appreciated and has helped me grow both personally and professionally. There are so many teachers who are equally deserving of this award for their commitment and tireless dedication to inspire our youth.
 
And of course I want to thank my students for their determination and commitment to improvement as they stand up to meet the challenges ahead. I realize that the hard work, loyalty and personal sacrifices of those previously mentioned have made this recognition possible. I consider this honor as one in a representative capacity to be shared with all of my colleagues.

 
The love of literature is something that I have always had. My mother tells how she would hear me cackling in the middle of the night as a young child in my crib. She would come in and there I would be a book in hand, dolls around me pretending to read. Lining up the dolls and teaching them, reading to them, making up my own story. So it was no surprise to my mother that I would grow up to be a teacher, besides, it is in my blood. My grandmother was also a teacher.
 
The fact that I can be a part of instilling this love of literature, this love of words, in our youth is awe-inspiring. If I can get a student to enjoy a book, I’ve gotten them to enjoy reading, if I can get them to enjoy reading, I’ve helped to create a reader. If I’ve created a reader, I’ve helped to create a thinker which is a benefit to this world.
 
My hope is that these thinkers, writers, readers, the next generation, can continue to add to the voices of our diverse literary tradition. My hope is that they continue to read, continue to write, continue to let their voices be heard and make an impact on our world.
 
As a final thought, I would like to leave you with a quote: “When a reader enters the pages of a book…he or she enters a world where dreams transform the past into knowledge made applicable to the present, and where visions shape the present into extraordinary possibilities for the future.” – Aberjhani, Collected Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black.

I hope your dreams and futures are extraordinary. Thank you.

Faith Majors is a National Board Certified Teacher who brings enthusiasm, structure, and creativity to her classroom. She focuses on the whole child when she teachers, going the extra mile to find books and materials that will interest even the most reluctant reader. Her hard work, and that of her students, has helped to increase her special education students’ measured reading level during their time with her each year. Read more about Faith

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March 10th, 2014

Better Living through the Humanities

Occasionally we re-post the transcripts from archive episodes of Humanities Connection, MHC’s weekly segment on WYPR, your NPR Station. To continue the dialogue spurred by the 2013 “Heart of the Matter” bipartisan report, we asked Dr. Jim Salvucci, Dean of The School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Stevenson University, to offer his reflection of how the humanities bring meaning to our lives.

Imagine a world devoid of the humanities. Many Americans–though few public radio listeners–would shrug at the prospect, indifferent to or doubtful of the humanities’ benefits. But in this hypothetical dystopia without philosophy and religion, most values would be evaluated according to value–price or profit. Religious faith, for instance, would become a cost-benefit analysis–say, a balance between the price of certain earthly choices and the prospect of eternal bliss–rather than an appreciation of the inherent good in certain choices or, for some, in faith itself. In this dystopia, art would be a rote thing, depictions devoid of the artists’ humanity and its complexity. Beauty itself would be measurable by tools, such as calipers or a spectrometer. Your smart phone would still have a calculator app, yes, but no YouTube.

Take the fundamental feature of all human cultures: the story. One would be hard pressed to find a person who did not appreciate a good story, but without the humanities, stories would be bland recitations of known facts without the understanding, however confounding it be, that our perceptions shape the facts we observe. We tell stories not just to relate facts but–more importantly–to convey meaning.

After all, social scientists and humanists can agree that the human mind is a meaning-making machine. We find meaning even in the mundane. But, while psychologists can discover the mechanism for that drive toward meaning, it takes the humanities to recognize and even appreciate the raw power and myriad implications of the compulsion. The drive toward meaning is at the heart of the humanities: religion, philosophy, languages, classics, and the rest. In short, many disciplines of study can identify how we make meaning and even why, and those questions and their answers are vitally important. The humanities, though, are supremely, maybe uniquely, positioned to answer a fundamentally human question: “so what?”

That “so what?” is a driving force perhaps more powerful even than compound interest. It expresses an inquisitiveness that challenges facile assumptions and relentlessly focuses on the future. There is, then, an inherent optimism to answering “so what?” an irresistible searching that redirects the human condition away from apathy and despair.

When I was still in graduate school for English, an acquaintance who was in a residency as an emergency physician, was boasting how she saved lives every day. She wanted to know what good people like me did in the world. With due respect for her noble work, I pointed out that people like me make those lives she saves worth saving to begin with, that human life bereft of humanity is bereft of meaning and purpose. It is existence, to be sure, but so what?

Yes, we can live, but the humanities help us live better.

Tell us what you think!  Comment below and tell us what role the humanities and liberal arts education have had in your life.  You can also share your views on the MHC Facebook page.

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January 10th, 2014

Top Ten Picks: 2014 One Maryland One Book

Each year thousands of readers from across Maryland take part in One Maryland One Book, the state’s largest reading and discussion program.  Out of over one hundred entries submitted by the public, the One Maryland One Book Selection Committee has narrowed the list of choices for the 2014 One Maryland One Book reading and discussion program down to ten books. Now in its seventh year, this year’s theme is ‘the American Dream.”

Have you read any of these selections? Do you have a favorite book that made the list?  Tell us below what you think!

2014 Top Ten Selections:

We expect to announce what thousands of Marylanders will read in the fall in February, so stay tuned!

 

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December 23rd, 2013

Wow What a Year: 2013

As we look ahead to the new year, bid farewell to the old, we thought it appropriate to reflect the wealth of humanities programs in 2013.  Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders—more than half a million in fact—participated in MHC programs this year, reinforcing the love of literature, history, scholarship, civic reflection, and more.  We hope you enjoy this brief video looking back at some of these programs.

We could not continue our success without the support of partners, sponsors, and supporters from around the state and are grateful for their contribution. If you have yet to do so, please consider making an end-of-year, tax-deductible donation to MHC and help us to continue support and to bring quality humanities programs to the public in 2014.

 

What MHC or grant-sponsored program did you enjoy in 2013?  Tell us, either by commenting below or posting to our Facebook page

Happy New Year from the Maryland Humanities Council!

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December 6th, 2013

Homeschool History Day: Building Community

I love National History Day because it inspires students to reach levels beyond my wildest imagination.

I mentor a group of homeschooled students who are working on National History Day projects.  We meet weekly at our local public library.  The students work on their research, and I wander around, answer questions, and provide guidance and encouragement when needed.  I have had students study everything from the war of independence in Cyprus to the big bang theory, and we have had some amazing experiences together.

I worked with a group of students who put on white cotton gloves and went through folders of old newspaper articles and photos at the local historical society.  I took a ninth grader to the George Peabody Library where he was able to read a book published in 1758.  My students have visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the National Postal Museum, the Food and Drug Administration and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  They have interviewed two Nobel Prize winning physicists and a Pulitzer Prize winning historian.  Museum archivists have sent them rare photos and unpublished primary sources, and have offered insight and direction.

National History Day also helps students connect with the community.  One year, I had a group of middle school girls who studied the desegregation of our local schools.  They interviewed three women who were among the first black students to attend white schools in our county.  One of these ladies came to the district competition.  When she looked at the exhibit, her eyes filled with tears.  She hugged the girls and thanked them for taking the time to hear her story.

Listen to Christine Pritt read her essay on WYPR’s Humanities Connection.

Students also develop vital skills that they will need throughout their lives.  They learn to tackle a difficult project, to persevere and to keep plodding on when the work seems overwhelming.  And they learn that the satisfaction of a job well done makes it worth all the effort that went into it. They learn to work with others who have different strengths and weaknesses.

They learn to communicate clearly and to compromise when necessary, to take criticism gracefully and to give advice gently.   They face the nervousness of standing before the judges, and they come away with new found confidence and eloquence. I have watched an extremely shy student come out of her shell and beam with excitement as she answered judges’ questions about her documentary on the Pony Express.  I have cheered when a seventh-grader who could only sit still for a couple of minutes at a time won first place in the state for his website on the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
Year after year, my National History Day students amaze me.  I expect a lot from them, and they always go far beyond what I can imagine.

 

Christine Pritt was named the 2013 Patricia Behring Middle School History Day Teacher of the Year in Maryland. The Maryland History Day Competition, coordinated in our state by the Maryland Humanities Council, is much more than one day—each student spends on average more than 70 hours envisioning, researching, and fine-tuning a research project  based upon an annual theme. More than 19,000 public, private, parochial, and homeschool students enter from all corners of our state.  Photo:  Christine receives her award from Maryland Senate President Mike V. Miller, Jr. at the 2013 State Competition. Photo by Mitro Hood.

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November 8th, 2013

The Humanities Spur Civil Discourse

On Monday, October 28, the College of Southern Maryland’s Diversity Institute hosted “Defying Definitions: Justice for All?” Sponsored by the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Maryland Humanities Council, this community conversation about freedom and equality was designed to challenge participants to reflect on how they perceive others, how they are perceived by others, and what they understand about themselves.

The event offered a rare opportunity for neighbors to enjoy a meal together and to share experiences and perceptions of the world. Working in facilitated small groups, we discussed a photograph and a poem.

I have a degree in language and literature, and I’ve seen firsthand the ways that the humanities can transform thoughts and lives. But it’s been a long time since I’ve found myself in a place where I was able to sit down with people I didn’t know, to use the humanities to engage in civil discourse about difficult topics. Our culture sometimes seems to shut us apart from one another, but the humanities provide a unique vehicle for bringing us together and generating honest and revealing discussion.

Guiding the conversation, the facilitators, with their clear but gentle articulation of “the rules” (be concise, respect others, be comfortable in moments of silence), helped to create a safe place for sharing. I tend to be quiet in groups like this, but the format created openings for everyone to participate. I was drawn out irresistibly by the opportunity to have a serious dialogue, framed in the context of the group’s personal, but shared, experience with the photograph and the poem. Art created space for the conversation, allowing us to transcend the ways that we may have defined ourselves or others prior to the conversation.

Imagine the Angels of Bread,” by Martin Espada, illustrates what can happen if “this is the year” that the traditional power structures and values shift. This poem, which we read aloud together, was described by a fellow group member as being all about “flipping the script.” Our conversation that evening reminded and inspired me to look for the opportunities I have to flip the script in my own life: to see the story through others’ eyes and to help build a community where every story is heard and valued.

Laura Ford is Vice President of the Accokeek Foundation, a nonprofit that connects people to history, agriculture, and nature in Piscataway Park. Prior to joining the Foundation, Laura was a project manager and technical writer for the Maryland Center for Environmental Training. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Language and Literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Laura is a senior program officer with the Corina Higginson Trust. Laura was raised in Charles County, where she lives on a small farm with her family.

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October 10th, 2013

Remembering When the Titans Met King Peggy

This blog post was written collaboratively by thirty-four 10th Grade Honors English students at Tuscarora High School in Frederick, Maryland, with edits by their teacher, Mr. Slaby. King Peggy visited Tuscarora High School on September 26, 2013.

For several weeks, our English class of energetic sophomores had been reading King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and How She Changed An African Village, co-written by Peggielene “Nana” Bartels and Eleanor Herman. Initially, some of us were excited to read it, but others would have preferred something else. However, when our teacher, Mr. Slaby, told us King Peggy was coming to visit our school, we were ecstatic. Most of us never thought we would meet a female king, and we started seeing the reading of her book differently. King Peggy wasn’t just a book about a woman making the world a better place; she was someone whom we could meet and learn about firsthand. With our newfound excitement, we finished the book, had some lively discussions, and prepared for her visit, wanting to make her time with our Tuscarora Titan community a memorable one. The class and the entire school had a lot of work to do, so we set to work.

To give King Peggy a warm welcome to Tuscarora High our whole class made her six banners which we hung in the green room of our drama department, close to the stage. Each banner consisted of a letter to her from each student, a comment about how her book affected him/her, a theme topic taken from the book along with a quote, and a decoration that had to do with King Peggy’s story. Also, to decorate the green room some of us drew pictures on the white board and wrote a welcome message on it, too. Here are a few of the banners we hung on the walls:

     

 

 

 

 

 

Also, on Main Street, the School’s central meeting space, Mr. Dan Neuland, our Art Department Chairperson, made some banners of his own inspired by the One Maryland One Book bookmarks supplied by the Maryland Humanities Council.

When King Peggy arrived at Tuscarora, over a dozen people, consisting of Principal Schlappal, Mr. Slaby, students, and members of the Titan Leading Ladies Club, greeted her. After shaking hands and smiling warmly with everyone, Mr. Slaby led Nana into the green room. We went into the auditorium to join over 400 of our classmates and teachers. THS percussion students drummed a tribal beat stage right, and we could hear some students who hadn’t yet read the book questioning, “Who’s King Peggy? What’s her story” Many of us who had read it wondered what she would be like in person. Would she come across the same as in her book? Would she sound strong and loving? Would she be funny?

Once everyone was inside the auditorium, the lights dimmed, and the drummers exited the stage. Silence fell on the crowd, as a stage light shone on Principal Schlappal standing where the drummers had been. As she welcomed Nana, the lights at stage left went up, illuminating the yellow armchair. Whatever silence there had been quickly changed to wild applause and cheers. We were about to meet a king!

From behind the fichus trees stage left, Nana emerged, walking to the yellow arm chair and sitting down in it.

“Good morning!” she said.

“Good morning!” echoed the audience. We were amazed that we were sitting in front of an African king! In a commanding yet gentle tone, King Peggy told us her story of how she became the king of Otuam, looking us in the eyes as though she were speaking directly to each of us. We sat on the edge of our seats. Many of us who had already read her book realized that her story felt more influential and heartfelt in person.

When she finished talking about the beginning of her journey, we all turned our heads to a screen at center stage to watch a slide show with pictures of her village. Now we could see all the changes that Peggy has brought to her village, the ones many of us had read about! In seeing these images, we appreciated both the little things we have, and the work she has done for her people such as bringing clean water to her village and working to establish a school. She also gave the girls among us more confidence in ourselves, saying that we don’t have to be a man to do great things.

While her presentation kept us all engaged, Nana then took our questions. Dozens of students lined up behind microphones to ask her everything from how she continues to help empower women in Otuam and surrounding villages to what happened to her 1992 Honda Accord. She gave excellent, heartfelt answers to every single one of the questions the students asked. Nana even made a point of sharing the news that Queen Latifah would be portraying her in an upcoming movie!

After the performance was over, and after Nana had signed some books to be given away later in the day, Mr. Slaby called our English class up to the stage. We were shocked! We approached Nana, and she had a big smile for us. We each shook her hand, and she was open to answering our many questions and taking photos with us, including this one in front of Mr. Neuland’s window display:

We walked away with a tremendous understanding of the book and a better appreciation for the things we take for granted living here in the United States. Our THS Book Club also just held a donation drive for Otuam, and more classes are now engaged in her book and in thinking of ways that they, too, can make a difference. While King Peggy is certainly an inspirational book, Nana herself is an overall amazingly generous, powerful, and gracious person. We thank the Maryland Humanities Council, Principal Schlappal, Tuscarora High School faculty and staff, and most importantly King Peggy herself for helping make our reading of King Peggy and our meeting of this real-life hero an experience we’ll never forget!

Photo credit: Dana Miletic, THS English Department Co-Chair.

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September 19th, 2013

A Fairytale Come True at the Library by Bill Peak

What can I tell you about Peggielene Bartels?  That she works as a secretary in Washington, D.C.?  That she is black?  That she drives a green 1992 Honda Accord?  That she talks to her car each morning on the way into work as if it were an old but unreliable friend she must coax into making its way just one more time down Rock Creek Parkway?  That she is a king?

That’s right, she is a king.  In 2008 (though by that time she had lived in the United States for 29 years and had long since become an American citizen), Peggielene Bartels received an entirely unexpected midnight call from her African homeland of Ghana.  Through an ancient ritual involving the pouring of special libations at a sacred shrine, it had been determined that “the ancestors” had selected her to be the new king of her native Otuam.

King Peggy is the true story of Peggielene Bartels’ ensuing relationship with her subjects and her native land.  It is also this year’s One Maryland One Book.  One Maryland One Book is the program of the Maryland Humanities Council in which people all across the state read the same book at the same time.  For six years now, I have read each and every One Maryland One Book, and I have to tell you, this year’s selection tells a story unlike anything I have ever read before.

King Peggy is at once a fairy tale come true, a study in human nature and the uses and abuses of power, and an inspirational (and often very funny) story of what one person with good intentions, strong faith, and a heart of gold can achieve.  For however appealing the prospect of waking up one day to find yourself the ruler of a foreign land, the reality, inevitably, turns out to be something less … and, in some ways, more … than a storybook romance.

When Peggielene returns to Otuam for her enthronement, she begins to suspect that the real reason her royal council has accepted the ancestors’ choice for king is that its members—coming from a culture where men traditionally hold sway over women—believe her selection means they can continue to use the fees and taxes they collect from Peggy’s subjects to feather their own nests.  For years now they have bamboozled Peggy’s weak and ineffectual predecessor, in the process enriching themselves while leaving the people of Otuam poor and dispirited.  But even as a secretary, Peggielene Bartels was never one to suffer fools gladly, and it turns out that being king hasn’t changed her attitude toward that particular type one little bit.

If you liked Alexander McCall Smith’s novels featuring the famed Botswanan lady detective, Mma Ramotswe, you’ll love King Peggy, for she is the real thing.

Bill Peak writes a monthly article for the Star-Democrat about working at the Talbot County Free Library. Thank you, Bill, for allowing us to reprint this in our blog—and for your thoughts about our 2013 One Maryland One Book Selection.

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September 9th, 2013

Making History Come Alive: Using Interviews to Facilitate Historical Inquiry

MHC’s Maryland History Day program challenges middle and high school students to explore a topic that intereststhem by conducting in-depth research and creating projects that are evaluated by judges at the local, state, and national levels.  Many students who compete in Maryland History Day attribute the skills they learned through History Day to success later in life.  History Day students not only dig deep into primary and secondary sources at libraries and archives, they also gain experience visiting historic sites and conducting first-person interviews to support their research.  Catherine’s story is an excellent example of how conducting interviews to facilitate historical inquiry can help students develop and practice important research and literacy skills.

Catherine Scott and Thurgood Marshall, Jr. Photo by Melissa Miller Scott

When Catherine Scott began to think about her History Fair topic and category last fall, her teacher suggested that she let her desire to become an attorney guide her decision.  “Catherine, like her brother Michael, wants to follow the footsteps of both her mother and grandfather and continue a family legacy of practicing law as successful and well-respected members of the Bar,” said Margaret Land, Catherine’s eighth grade Calvert County social studies teacher.  “I knew the History Day process would provide an excellent opportunity for her to build upon the strong analytical, research, and writing skills needed to succeed in the legal profession.”

Thurgood Marshall Illustration by Tom Chalkley

Thurgood Marshall Illustration by Tom Chalkley, Chautauqua 2008

“I have always been interested in law and the history of segregation in our country,” said Catherine.  “After reading a few articles on Thurgood Marshall and the legal path he took to fight for desegregation, I thought it would be an interesting and cool topic to explore.”  Catherine’s strong abilities to write well and to gather evidence reflecting different perspectives led her to select the Historical Paper category to convey her learning.  After formulating a working thesis, Catherine focused her research on how Marshall utilized the Maryland judiciary early in his legal career to methodically dismantle the “Separate but Equal” doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson.  Thanks to his efforts, the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision abolished segregation in public education throughout the United States.

Inspired by Marshall’s strong belief that ending racial desegregation in education would ultimately lead to social, political, and economic equality for African Americans, Catherine sought to learn more about how his values were shaped by his middle class upbringing in Baltimore, Maryland.  And who better to share a personal perspective than Marshall’s son and namesake, Thurgood Marshall, Jr.  After carefully crafting a series of questions, Catherine met last December with Mr. Marshall, an attorney and lobbyist in Washington, DC.   “At first, I thought I knew everything about my topic, but during my interview I realized that there was a lot more insight and good information that was not published that perhaps only his son knew,” Catherine stated.  The details she gathered helped her understand the continuity and change in racial segregation during Marshall’s lifetime and strengthened her historical argument that Marshall’s own experience and convictions helped fuel his persistence.

Although Catherine’s research paper was selected to advance from the county to the state contest, she learned that History Day is much more than a competition.   The process required her to locate, analyze, synthesize, and communicate information from a variety of primary and secondary sources, similar to the skill set she will need as an attorney.  Catherine strongly recommends that other students working on History Day projects, regardless of category, “find someone involved with your topic so you can gain background that you can get only through an interview.”

Thurgood Marshall with his family (AP Photo)

“Catherine’s desire to historically investigate the work of arguably the most influential attorney in the 20st century, all while honing the skills she needs to one day become a successful lawyer in her own right, seemed like the perfect combination to provide a student with motivation and authentic learning,” concluded her teacher.  “I am very proud of Catherine and I am a firm believer that participating in History Day can help students develop their talents and acquire the essential skills and contextual knowledge needed to be ready for career, college, and civic life.”

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August 26th, 2013

Life Lessons from King Peggy to a Twenty-Year-Old

King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village is truly a read for both young and old, but what about the sometimes-forgotten-Generation Y? The late-teens to twenty-something’s of the world sometimes feel lost in the hustle-and-bustle of a book for all ages, but as not-kids-but-not-yet-total-adults, we arguably have the most to gain from King Peggy. The book teaches valuable life lessons to us kids in transition, and here are just a few lessons to learn from King Peggy to keep in mind as we struggle to find our paths into the future…

1.    Go forward, go humbly.
The story of a secretary in one night becoming King is amazing, but what makes King Peggy a household name, what keeps her story alive, and what is truly stunning is her humility. It seems that people are just as interested in her day-to-day life as they are in her kingship. She’s a king, but she kept her job as a secretary, filing papers and scheduling appointments? She chooses to live in her one-bedroom apartment, wear normal clothes, even wake up for her 9-5 job just like the rest of us? Well, yes. When she returns to her village, the people cook for her, clean for her, bow to her (even though she would rather they not, as she would rather them be comfortable so they can address the real issues), but she takes part in this for only one month of the year. As we see photos and videos of her walking the streets and sitting with her people in Otuam, she says that she did not become a King to sit in a palace, but “I want to pamper my people, not them pamper me,” says King Peggy in an interview with CNN. In that same interview, when asked what she wants the little girls who are watching to take away from this conversation, the first thing she says is, “I would like to advise them to be humble…because you don’t know where you will be in the future.”

2.    Take a leap.
One minute a secretary, the next a King. While this duty is rightfully hers, King Peggy had to make the tough decision to take on this task that most people would have brushed off as crazy, or too arduous to tackle. King Peggy had been working at the Ghanaian embassy as a secretary for thirty years when she got a call at 4:00am one morning that she could rule. Of course she never dreamed that this would happen, but she says, “I realized that on this earth, we all have a calling. We have to be ready to accept it because helping my people has really helped me a lot to know that I can really touch their lives,” adding “I would have really regretted it if I hadn’t accepted this calling.” So, here’s to those opportunities that pop up that we never thought we would consider…Take a chance, see where it leads. This is a time of life exploration so nothing is final, but, who knows, you could end up a king…or have Queen Latifah portray you in a movie.

3.    Be strong.
King Peggy faces obstacles as a ruler that we can only begin to grasp. The male chauvinism that she faced forced her to break down convention and reinvent the world’s idea of a King. She has brought consideration and compassion to her position, as she did not just inherit a kingdom; King Peggy was chosen to rule a lively and beautiful, yet impoverished, African village so that she could make a better life for the people—she is not allocating gold in Europe, she is currently working on bringing up-to-date toilets to Otuam. With wisdom, faith, and a stalwart moral compass, she has inspired countless people both in her village and touched by her story. Sometimes, our generation is overlooked, told to just get by in these trying times, to do what we are told in order to get further in life. It is time to trust the lessons King Peggy can teach us, and know that staying true to yourself, and even making some waves along the way, will be the sign of someone who will truly reach success. King Peggy truly believes that we must be morally strong, because if we are doing the best we can for our lives, life will be good to us. So have conviction, do what you believe is right, and life will give you all it has to offer.

4.    “If you give, you begin to live.”
I wish I could take credit for this catchy and prolific phrase, but I am glad to attribute it to my favorite artist, Dave Matthews, also a (South) African Native. Not to get quote-happy, but this could not be more perfectly aligned with King Peggy as she says, “I have to really work hard to help my people. I have to give myself to people to better their lives.” As a transitioning kid-to-adult, one can only imagine how many times I hear “Oh, you’re a Government and Politics major! So what do you want to do with that?” My everyday interviewers seem to think my response of “I don’t know, change the world?” is kitschy and cute, when, in fact, it is my all-too-real, lofty yet (possibly?) attainable light at the end of the tunnel that I tirelessly hope to continue working toward each day. King Peggy changes the world through her work in Otuam, by spending her only vacation time there, by waking up at 1:00am every day to call and check in on her people, and, perhaps most importantly, by sharing her story. I can only dream to give back as much as she has one day, I can only hope to impact people’s lives in this profound way, and I can only ask that Generation Y, Generation X, The Golden Generation, and everyone above and in between, join in giving a bit of ourselves each day, so that we all may begin to live.

 

Taylor Jachman

Taylor Jachman is a rising junior at the University of Maryland College Park where she studies government and politics.  Taylor served Maryland Humanities Council this summer at MHC as one of two Walter Sondheim Maryland Nonprofit Leadership interns, supporting both development and communications. King Peggy:  An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman is the 2013 One Maryland One Book.  Click here to learn more.

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