Category: History


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Is there anything more important to our society than the First Amendment?  I doubt it.  In order to create a society of excellence in the sciences and arts, a society must be able to express itself freely.  Imagine a society where one can not say what one wants to say, or protest.  Imagine that John Lennon’s song, “Give Peace a Chance” was never allowed to be sung.  The Vietnam War protests were perhaps the pinnacle of our first amendment rights.  Those protests tested our country, and, regardless of what your opinion of that war was, that was a movement that was the identity of a decade of our country.  Without the freedom of speech, our nation would lose its identity.  What about artists?  Musical and visual artists would certainly not journey into this nation if they were not allowed to say what they want to say.  Would we want a nation (like the USSR) that banned the Beatles?  Is that what we want to be known for?

Freedom of the Press.  Without that, I could not write this blog.  In fact, in some countries, what I am writing right now could be considered illegal.  Is that the society that we, as Americans, want?  I should hope not.  We often hear how the press is “biased” or “unfair” and that may be true.  But, that is their right, it is up to us the people to make up our own minds.  The press can say what they want to say, and they can endorse the candidates they want to endorse.  I, for one, am proud that we have people in the media that care enough about our nation to make their opinions known.

As far as freedom of religion, I am a Roman Catholic, and in many places Catholics were presecuted.  Christians have been fed to lions, people have been martyred for their faith.  I am glad that we have a nation where Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Agnostics, Atheists, or anyone else can have the peace of mind that our government will not persecute them based on their beliefs.  Imagine not having the right to go to Church.  Imagine having to have church in the basement of a friend’s house because the country does not allow you to worship freely.  It ain’t a pretty sight.  To be sure, religious differences cause tension from time to time.  But would we not rather have a little tension than no freedom?

The right of people to assemble peacefully is integral to our society.  Martin Luther King Jr. was permitted to speak publically, and he called attention to the problem of racism in our country, and, thankfully, we now have a society that includes people of many races, and does not exclude people due to ethnic background.  We have the right to disagree with our elected officials.  We have the right to send them home, and place the people we want in charge of our country.  We are this nation.  We are America.  We are free peoples living together.  At times there may be struggles, at times, such as now, we may have two very different political parties and ideologies, but the important thing is that we are allowed to have this debate, to have these ideas.  Sure, at times tempers may flare, and we may have some rough days, but would we really have it any other way?

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“God put me here.  The longer I am here, the more I feel called to be here…it’s not really a job because I love it.” – Mr. Jerry Williams

When asked who I would most like to interview, I think that there is really only one answer.  Mr. Jerry Williams, the U.S. History teacher and baseball coach here at Franklin Road Academy.  A teacher unlike any other, Mr. Williams has long been seen as an enigma by students.  However, through a very unorthodx teaching method, Mr. Williams turns ordinary students into extraordinary writers, while giving them confidence and tools that they can use for success in college and beyond.  This past Wednesday, I had the chance to interview Mr. Williams.

It is 7:15 on a cool August morning.  It is my appointed time to interview Franklin Road Academy’s most fascinating teacher, and many time winner of the FRA faculty superlative “Craziest In Class.”  As I arrive at his classroom, I am thrown the first curveball.  He is nowhere to be found.   I find him in the hallway, and he beckons me outside.  I hastily grab my notepad and pen and hope that I have my questions memorized.

Mr. Williams, as intimidating as he sometimes is, turns out to be one of the most pleasant interviewees one could imagine.  Slowly, he reveals to me his motivation for being a teacher.  Mr. Williams was originally academically ineligable to play baseball, so, after a year at junior college, he returned to Vanderbilt University, where he was an All-SEC catcher on the 1980 SEC Championship team.  He said that originally, he did not think that he would be a teacher.  But as he came here, he sought to teach others what he had not known, to prevent the mistake that he had made.  He wanted his students to go into college, “with a head full of knowledge.”  He wanted students to go to college and beyond feeling confident in their writing.  As the sweet morning air hangs in the sky, Mr. Williams greets the students as they arrive.  We get back to the interview, and I ask the question that I personally am most curious about: What is the hardest part of your job?  Mr. Williams looks to the sunrise and thinks for a couple moment before finally saying one word, “listening.”  Mr. Williams tells me that he often gets so excited about teaching and gets so thrilled with the subject matter that he sometimes forgets to really listen to and understand his students.  It’s something he says he works on, but something that he still struggles with.  A surprising answer, that shows his real passion for the students.  He sees his greatest challenge is understanding and listening to students, a real sign of caring for his pupils.  Next, I ask him on whether he thinks he is being called to be a teacher, and what the meaning of that calling is.  Mr. Williams says that he does indeed see teaching as his calling, though it was not always so.  As he continues his service at FRA (and it really is a service) for over 25 years now, he says that the calling grows stronger each year and that, “now, it’s not even a job because I love it.”  He ends by reminding me that what you put into it is what you get out of it.  For Mr. Williams, God placed him in this school to make a difference, to help people become better writers, make class more enjoyable, and, “trying to look for good, and make the good better.”