It always amazes me how difficult it can be for me to write when I am sad about something. This week, two people who've influence my life passed away.
The first person, Dr. Valerie French, was a professor of ancient Mediterranean history, and simply one of the nicest and most caring individuals I've ever met. She convinced me to take a chance at teaching an introductory history course with her, even though she knew that I was hesitant to teach in the classroom (I wanted to focus on public history). I am glad she convinced me to teach, because the experience helped me to discover the natural teacher within. Dr. French was a fierce advocate for students, undergraduate or graduate. I am so glad that I had an opportunity to know her, work with her, and learn from her (the art of teaching).
The second person, Christopher Hitchens, was a writer who wrote for Vanity Fair and Slate, to name a few places. And because Washington can sometimes seem very small, I occasionally would see Hitchens out and about in the city. I always read his column first, when my Vanity Fair arrived. I loved that he simply would not suffer fools, and used his pen like a weapon when roused. I often wondered what he would have been like as a Rhetoric professor, though I am sure he would have been brutal (and likely be considered the professor who really taught people both how to think and write). I will miss reading his commentary, and in a way, I wish that he could give us just one final essay, now that he really knows what's awaits us upon death.
I wanted to add an important update to my comment regarding Christopher Hitchens. As I read Glenn Greenwald's comment on Hitchens' death, I am glad that he reminded me of the things, the many things, that Hitchens wrote that I disagreed with fundamentally, particularly regarding the lead-up to, and execution of the Iraq War by the Bush administration. I will admit that I agree fully with Greenwald's point about Hitchens' increasingly disturbing (to me) views throughout that conflict. I was also reminded of something that I promised myself I wouldn't do: put too much faith in an individual in the world of politics. I'm still learning my lesson. Please check out Greenwald's post. It is well worth the read.