As secretary of education, Richard W. Riley is something of an ambassador for the nation's teachers. But that doesn't mean he's comfortable at the front of a classroom.
At a recent luncheon where he discussed teaching shortages and training issues, the secretary gave a passionate speech on the need to recruit good teachers. And to prove what a challenging job it is, he told of "the last time I really tried to teach."
It was in his days as governor of South Carolina, when he was trying to promote a controversial education reform plan. He visited an elementary school in a tiny, rural town, and was asked to speak to one of the classes. While he was talking, he noticed that a boy named Franklin was fidgeting and not paying attention.
Mr. Riley said he called the child's name and asked him if he had ever been to Columbia, the state capital. All the local news media focused on Franklin, who replied, "'Yeah, my mom and dad and I went to a Carolina football game there. But they lost, and my daddy got drunk and we had to bring him home,'" Mr. Riley remembered. "I didn't watch the six o'clock news that night, I got out of town," Mr. Riley added.
The secretary is also well-known for recounting stories about his grandchildren during his speeches, and makes sure he has recent pictures of them to hold up, according to his staff.
In that vein, he shared some unofficial, breaking news at the Sept. 15 event: He'll soon add a new grandchild, his 10th. "But don't tell anyone, the word's not out yet," he jokingly told the 100 or so reporters and other members of the audience.
Honors from CEF
The Washington-based Committee for Education Funding has bestowed its top honor on Rep. Louis Stokes, a Democrat from Ohio who was first elected to Congress 30 years ago.
The umbrella lobbying group of education organizations recognized Mr. Stokes, a long-time advocate for federal education spending, at a fund-raising and awards dinner Sept. 17. Mr. Stokes told attendees of his childhood, growing up in a housing project with his working, single mother.
"She constantly told us, 'Get something in your head so you don't have to work with your hands as I have,'" he recalled.
The CEF also honored Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-Md., and Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Jack Reed of Rhode Island for their support of education spending increases.
--JOETTA L. SACK [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 18