Friday, January 18, 2008

A week filled with pleasant surprises ... .

Did two long-distance interviews on Wednesday; each quite different, and both really interesting.

By prearrangement, and having grown out of an Associated Press story that broke in various places over the past weeks, I'd received a call from a young teacher in a high school in Bakersfield, California. This is the last major valley city before one reaches the "Grapevine" a mountainous drive that forms the entrance to Los Angeles County. I know little about Southern California but would have thought it to be relatively conservative, politically. This is surely a misconception, judging by this experience with the educational system.

The teacher told me that her history class had been studying the period of World War II, had come across the story about Rosie the Riveter Home Front Historical National Park (in which I'm quoted pretty generously), and would love to interview me by telephone, if possible. Of course -- this had to be a great example of civic engagement, right?

We agreed upon a time -- 3:00 on Wednesday -- when I would be in my office undisturbed and without interruption. In preparation the students prepared and emailed ahead a series of questions that would be asked (heaven bless technology!).

At the appointed hour I sat with notes in hand and when their call came I felt a moment of panic as I remembered my last assignment at the charter school where I'd not felt totally successful. But I should not have worried. It was quite wonderful.

Three young girls acted as interviewers. They asked their questions -- but then I asked mine. I learned that this class had studied the Civil Rights Movement, were familiar with the Little Rock Nine (I believe), and were at the moment in the middle of Dr. Robert Allen's book, "Mutiny at Port Chicago." They were knowledgeable about the subject -- and they were keenly interested. It was a wonderful meeting of the minds. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Those young people provided a model for sharing that history across the generations with high school classes; something I'll build on. Sitting alone in an office being a disembodied voice speaking into a communication device that amplified the incoming voices so that it feels as though we're all in the same room ... any self-consciousness drops away. Even knowing that they were taping the interview for further study added no pressure to speak of.

Later that evening there was another interview, this time for, a promo for an upcoming Black History Week speaking engagement for the National Organization for Women (NOW). This time the audience would be unseen and out there somewhere in the ether -- and I'm not sure when it will be aired. But it also went well. The interviewer had a friendly voice and asked reasonable questions that allowed space to make my points easily. Under ordinary circumstances this would have caused some anxiety, but because of the earlier experience with those youngsters -- I felt capable and worthy of being listened to.

Had no idea that I'd live long enough to BE black history -- or that I'd grow into the age where one begins to get credit for being able to tie your own shoes!