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  • Reverend James Squire


Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Photo by Shalone Cason

I love words and reading. Ever since I was too young to get a library card, I began using my older brother’s card. I would go to our public library to read a whole series of books abut American heroes. I will never forget the books’ orange covers. I was blessed to have a Latin teacher in a public high school, Ms. Higgins, who treated me and others as serious students when the blue-collar community in which I was raised did not have a priority of pushing education for its young people. Few went to college. I think that Ms. Higgins thought she was teaching at Yale. She didn’t care about what others thought or did. She had the highest standards and pushed all of us every day to achieve our best. She was demanding!

I loved Latin for two reasons. Since the ending of Latin words determine parts of speech, Latin gives you a solid grounding in grammar. Second, a vast number of our English words are derived from a Latin root. Even after a rigorous football practice and was tired, I still tried to do extra translations and math problems when doing my homework. I also began a process in Middle School that I still do today. If I don’t know what a word means when I am reading, I look it up. I then use it myself. That is the true way to develop a vocabulary. You don’t do it through SAT courses.

George Will, conservative author and columnist, loves words as well. In a recent editorial he found the right word for describing Hawley, Cruz, and the President and his enablers to resonate with how I felt about these seditionists. He described them as oleaginous, a word that means oily or slick. Its root in the Latin is oleaginous meaning “of an olive tree”. That word would make Ms. Higgins proud. What a great word to describe the Trump family.

I was introduced to the importance of words in a different way by one of my Ethics students who came into my Ethics classroom and proclaimed, “Rev, you have given me uninterrupted dinners.” He was a running back on our football team and would come home after practice ready to eat anything in sight. The family always ate dinner together. His father was a terrific guy, but he had one fault. He could never admit that he didn’t know something.

Just as my student would be ready to pounce on his dinner, his father would always ask that dreaded question that is asked of students. “What did you learn in school today?” He also wanted to engage in discussion after his question landed just as my student was ready to dig in. Then it happened. He asked my student what he learned in school. My student responded by saying, “Existentialism in Ethics!” Then there was silence. My student looked over and there was no response except, “Go ahead. Eat your dinner!” Dad had no idea what my student was talking about.

Then for an entire term his dad would raise the question again and again. Each of my student’s responses contained theory or words that his father wasn’t in a position to discuss. “Today we learned about the slippery slope argument in bioethics.” My student had one term of responses of, “go ahead and eat your dinner.”

What Ms. Higgins passed down to me was to treat each and every student as though they could learn anything, the value of their learning, and they could do anything that they had as a goal.

She was a single lady who always enthusiastically clapped her hands when a struggling student would get a question right. I can’t remember any time where she played “gotcha” catching any of us repeatedly answering something wrong. I had some tough customers in my class. She was a little lady. One got the distinct impression that she cared deeply about Latin but cared even more about us. Everyone showed her the utmost respect. I would even say she was revered.

Regarding the unethical behavior of Trump and his enablers since November 3, I wonder how things would have played out if he and they focused on the truth of the election results and not their lies? What would have happened if they celebrated the election as the core of our democracy and didn’t spend their time playing “gotcha” focusing on their own lies and wrong answers to benefit their selfish desires?

Too bad that they didn’t have Ms. Higgins for Latin. They would have gained the same kind of respect that she received from my Latin class. They are left instead with the adjective that describes them best. They are “Oleaginous”!

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