No 607



Several weeks ago I received an e-mail from Donald Tremblay, who is in the public relations department of Seton Hall Law School in South Orange, N.J. He wrote to tell me about a fantastic lady he thought would make a great column and who is making a difference in the lives of many people.
After reading about her, and a portion of a keynote speech she made during the New Jersey Small Business Administration 2006 Professionalism Awards ceremony, I completely agree. Her name is Paula Franzese and she is a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, a married mother of two children, chair of the New Jersey State Ethics Commission and is working on a book titled “Smart Snow,” which is about snow flakes that know where to fall.
These facts alone would not be enough to cause me to want to write about her, but here is a piece of information that did the trick and and is the main reason I wanted to share a bit of her work with you. Paula teaches a course, on her own time, at St. Catherine’s School in Cedar Grove, N.J., called "Civics, Character and Leadership." It is made up of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, and one of the course assignments is to create a fictitious corporation that is rooted in best practices and business ethics. She is an academic who is greatly disturbed by the cynicism infecting our nation.
Here is a portion of that keynote speech that I mentioned earlier that will give you some insight into her teaching philosophy and her passionate desire to motivate young people to be and become the very best they can be. After reading the following essay I said to myself, “God knows, we need thousands of teachers like her in the halls of academia all across the nation."
It begins: “We have become an uninspired people. Yet, to paraphrase Gandhi, we can be the inspiration that we want to see in the world. We inspire when we give people hope. We inspire when we are less concerned with our importance, and more concerned with our significance.
"Can we make real the promise of renewed optimism? I answer with a resounding yes. No matter how seemingly humble or modest our circumstances, we each have the capacity to do the work of the angels on earth and to close the gap between what is and what ought to be. Cynicism, wrote Phillip Van Munching, is a belief in nothing. He added that it takes courage to believe in things, because sometimes things will disappoint us and sometimes people will break our hearts. But we have to be willing to take that chance. If not us, then who?
"I tell my children all the time, we are who and what we choose to love, and not who or what loves us. True love looks for ways to make people’s lives better. And love is a choice. People can be mean and irresponsible. But getting stuck in judgment and resentment robs us of our power. It puts us at the mercy of another’s incivility. It diminishes us to the extent that we choose to respond in kind. Martin Luther King Jr. made plain, 'We have no morally persuasive authority with someone who can feel our underlying contempt.' We persuade only when we stay anchored in our integrity, our grace, our class, our kindness, our dignity, and our compassion, no matter the temptation to do otherwise.”
There is more that I do not have room to share, but she closes by telling about a trip her family made to Boston and they met The Oracle, a street performer who, for a dollar, will dispense your fortune. He caught her eye and called her over. She dutifully gave him her dollar and he handed her a scroll. Just at that moment, the sun emerged from an otherwise gloomy sky. She opened the scroll and on it was this message, “Kind Words Conquer.” My question to you is this. Have we really become an uninspired people?
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)