A cousin recently showed me a post on You Tube of my cousin Henry Rago, reading two of his poems. Henry was a poet and the editor of Poetry Magazine, as well as Professor of Theology and Literature at the University of Chicago. He died suddenly in 1969.
I was struck by two things on seeing that short film. First, I was awed by the marvel of the technology. I tend to think of You Tube as a vehicle for posting video of cats using the toilet and of spring break debauchery. But witnessing the delight my 94-year old mother felt at seeing her beloved childhood playmate on the screen was priceless.
The other thought was the power of education as a transformative force in American life. Henry Rago, just two generations removed from the barren land of southern Italy, had the bearing and the erudition of an Oxford don. I see it all the time in my students at Swarthmore, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college and who speak a language other than English at home. They may harbor all sorts of apprehensions at first, but four years later, they leave ready to conquer the world.
I am moved by these students, by their courage and grit. I rarely feel patriotic, but this proof of America as the land of opportunity, at least sometimes, is an awesome thing.