For neither in war nor yet at law ought any man to use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is willing to say and do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death. — Socrates to the Athenian Senate, from Plato’s Apology

In my 20-year teaching career, I tried to inspire students to live lives of caring, integrity, passion, and civic involvement. I tried to increase their awareness of their place in the community, country and world – to broaden their literary and ideological horizons. The year I left teaching to attend UNC Law, they gave me the greatest honor I have ever known by voting me “Most Inspirational Teacher.”

I miss my classroom every day; I was a called teacher and will never, I fear, do anything more important. My favorite thing – my greatest encouragement – is that I continue to hear from students, especially about how my class has had a positive impact on their lives and how they are paying it forward. (Keep those cards and letters – OK, mostly Facebook posts and emails – coming, my beloved formers!)

Yet America fails to adequately compensate and honor teachers. As a society we expect and often require students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, a recitation in which they must declare that our country has “liberty and justice for all.” In my class, I never required students to say the pledge, but I required they stand respectfully, and I always said it. But at the end, I ad-libbed: “with liberty and justice for all, if we keep working at it.”

How can our society aspire to these ideals without a commitment to provide access to quality education for all of our children? Why, if a school is “not good enough” for “our child” should it have to be good enough for any child? (And don’t get me started on racial equity; the educational and legal outcomes speak very clearly to the lack of justice for our children of color.)

For me, the practice of teaching and the practice of law should be about the work of moving our society closer to the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” This work demands a commitment to equitable educational access that transcends current market-based reform rhetoric and practice.

The heart of the matter is whether we, as a nation, have the political will to invest in educational opportunity for all. Related matters include access to legal representation/protection and a to truly democratic political process. Most of the writing here will poke at, prod at, and postulate about these matters.

This blog is about navigating the work of aspiring to and defending our highest ideals. And about trying very hard to “outrun unrighteousness.”

To die unbroken . . . even if I die broke.

Thanks for reading.

Graduating law school and entering the North Carolina Bar at age 49.

Graduating law school and entering the North Carolina Bar at age 49.


8 thoughts on “About

  1. I just met you a few minutes ago while reading the morning paper and was immediately drawn to you and taking the children to the Holocaust Museum. Having read some of your journal entries I feel that the following quote is YOU and I am sure you have read it before .. “One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, or how much money I had in the bank, but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in a child’s life” . .that is you Vivian. Just know that the Lord has placed you on my heart and we know that with Him nothing will be impossible!


  2. My cousin, Susan Spencer-Wendel, is also living courageously with ALS. I recommend her book, Until I Say Good-Bye, and also following her columns on the website of the Palm Beach Post newspaper. With all best wishes.


    • Emory and the other original site are full. I will go into the lottery for a new site in Massachusetts and help raise $$ for Duke to do the procedure. It requires tons of commitment and training for surgeons who will not be paid. It’s also $300k per person. So . . . it may not even be available for me, but I certainly hope to promote its progress for future patients! OF course, my understanding is also that only 1 in 12 have responded . . . but I’d sure love the chance to try it!


  3. http://thealsexpress.com/oh-snap/ April’s blog
    April 3, 2014AprilALS Related4 comments

    Most people snap their fingers without thought and don’t lose the ability. If the ability is lost due to a disease like ALS, it doesn’t return. I lost that ability because of weakened muscles in my right hand. Hey ALS: I can do it again – Oh Snap! I could still snap my left side but it was getting more difficult before surgery. Now my left hand is almost as good as before ALS. Every new little discovery of something I get back is like a magical moment for me.

    Sometimes I think back to before surgery. My husband and I discussed it quite a bit. The risks and just how invasive it is. In my mind I always knew I would go forward with it. When you have ALS, it’s hard to turn anything down, because you know what’s ahead. Looking back before surgery, when I was constantly being told of the risks, including waking up completely paralyzed or possibly not wake up, it’s easier to think, wow, I had no hesitation? Having this offered for any other condition, I would have passed. I wasn’t about to let any opportunity against this disease pass me by and I’m so glad I didn’t let it pass as well as thankful for being lucky enough to have the choice.


  4. http://investorshub.advfn.com/boards/read_msg.aspx?message_id=101820596
    Sunday, 05/11/14 04:43:18 PM
    Re: gaileo6 post# 2584
    Post # of 2601
    I copied this post by errico51 on another board. It reiterates what has happened to Ted Harada from the beginning in a shortened form. It is in Ted’s own words and is very encouraging for all of the ALS suffers. It is his feelings about right to try concerning his treatment from neuralstem. Here goes:
    In 2010, after experiencing weakness in my legs and hands, I found myself at Emory University Hospital sitting across from one of the foremost neurologists in the world. My wife and I sat in disbelief as our world was turned upside down. The doctor explained to us that I had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The chilling words — “There is no known cause, and no known cure” — continue to reverberate through my head.
    I was 38. I was facing a future without hope, until I had a chance to exercise my “right to try,” thanks to Emory University and their partnership with Neuralstem Inc.
    A groundbreaking safety study was taking place at Emory involving the injection of neural stem cells directly into the grey matter of ALS patients’ spinal cords. I was told it was only to prove it was safe, that it was very risky, and that it most likely wouldn’t help me. I gave my informed consent to participate.

    Then the most unexpected thing happened. It helped.

    Weeks after invasive surgery, I put down my cane and regained strength throughout my body. Empirical data showed that while I was not cured, they could document me regaining strength. You can only imagine the depth of my family’s joy and happiness, all because we had the “right to try.”
    The Goldwater Institute has crafted “Right to Try” legislation that four states are in the midst of passing and eight others are considering. “Right to Try” allows a patient access to investigational medications that have passed basic safety tests without interference by the government when certain conditions are met:
    1.) Patient has been diagnosed with a terminal disease;
    2.) Patient has considered all available treatment options;
    3.) Patient’s doctor has recommended the investigational drug, device or biological product represents the patient’s best chance at survival;
    4.) Patients or their guardians have provided informed consent;
    5.) The sponsoring company chooses to make the investigational drug available to patients outside the clinical trial.

    I am making it my personal mission to introduce “Right to Try” to the Georgia General Assembly as part of next year’s legislative session. Everyone deserves hope and the opportunity to “try.” Can anything be more inhumane than forcing people to endure a fatal plane crash because the onboard parachutes weren’t approved by a federal agency?

    This scenario plays out in medicine daily. I appreciate that the FDA is the gold standard in drug safety; however, if you or a loved one were facing mortality, would you be willing to settle for a silver standard?

    The research and results of the safety and potential efficacy of this research has gone global. A small glimmer of hope, a commodity previously nonexistent in the ALS community, has been ignited. I regularly receive emails requesting help from people throughout the world.


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