For many a young person

By Carolyn Hanks

For many a young person, there is someone who encourages and inspires him or her to go on to new heights. This person inspires the young adult to go beyond the family tradition of accomplishments. This person can be from your own family, from your church family, a friend, or perhaps a teacher. This is particularly true in regards to education.

When Maya Angelou, the poet, was only three years old, her parents agreed to no longer keep trying and were divorced. She and her five year old brother were put on a train in Los Angeles and were sent to a small hamlet in Arkansas. They were all alone. Their only source of identification was a tag on their arms saying that they were to be delivered to Mrs. Annie Henderson in the Arkansas village. They did arrive, and she has been forever grateful to her paternal grandmother, not only for raising her, but inspiring her to learn. Her grandmother was the daughter of slaves and had only a fourth grade education. She had self-taught herself many things. She was particularly emphatic about learning to speak correct English. Her own speech, through her own endeavors, was far removed from the plantation dialect. She would say, “Listen to how people talk and, more important, listen to yourself. You must speak so your neighbor can hear you, understand you, and maybe come to your defense in a time of trouble.” As Maya receives honorary doctorates and other prestigious acknowledgements, she thinks of her grandmother who had the courage to love her, to advise her, and to encourage her.

When David was in the L.D.S. Hospital for his heart surgery, there was a young assistant working on him. He was still completing his education at the University of Utah to become a medical doctor. He was black. I say this, only because it is so relevant to the story. He, like Maya Angelou, was raised by his grandmother. He was raised in Tennessee. He was very, very upset with the world because of all the inequalities bestowed upon him because of his color. He was angry and complaining to his grandmother. She said, “Boy, you talk about trouble, but you have no idea what trouble really is.” She then sat him down and told him of the many inequities that she had had to live with during the days of segregation. He said that she has since died (and then he came west to school), but he will forever be grateful to her for raising him and insisting that he be responsible for his own actions. That he raise himself above all the trouble that he was encountering.

I, too, have had a like experience. I am the only one in my family to graduate from college. My younger half-sister did attend two quarters many years later. My own sisters and brother did not even graduate from high school. My father had only gone to the eleventh grade. I was not even considering college. I just thought I would be a secretary—like all the other girls were going to do. I took several typing classes and a shorthand class—but I was never very good. I have Mrs. Washburn to thank for the change in my life. I am very grateful to her. She was the girl’s counselor at our school, but she also had to teach some classes. She taught Psychology—which was an excellent class. She also had to teach an eleventh grade English class. It was grammar, and she was apparently not very good at it. She would always say, “What do you think about that, Carolyn?” or “What do you think the answer is?” She also taught a careers class. This taught us about all types of jobs and opportunities. As part of this class, she did a lot of testing. Because of those tests, she told me that I definitely should not plan on being a secretary because my mechanical abilities were nil. She also was emphatic about me going to college. She was most insistent. It certainly did change my life. Some people are lucky enough to be born into families where college is the expected thing—the parents went, the grandparents went, the siblings went, and it was expected that everyone went. But for some, they need someone special to inspire, encourage, and expect them to make the break with their family origins. This does not always happen, but it is great when it does. I am grateful that it happened to me.

(Mrs. Helen Washburn)