I had planned to write a post today about Bobby Kennedy, Senator Obama, and education. Another day.

On Wednesday night I chaired a public hearing for Virginia’s Board of Education. The issue was some forthcoming special education regulations and we were soliciting public comment. As always there were strong feelings on all sides but the hearings are a good chance for everyone to get their say and for us to hear the broad range of views that are out there. And it’s great to see so many people take time from their lives to participate in the process all around the state.

One mother came with her two young sons. She signed their names along with hers on the sign-up sheet, but they were not props and there wasn’t any theater. They were just there with her and sat quietly waiting their turn to speak. But there were a lot of speakers and by the time their turn came one of them had fallen asleep in her arms. She spoke about the issues that were important to her in the proposed regulations, especially parental consent and participation, and what she wanted changed. Then they went home. Routine and uneventful and not unlike many of the other speakers that night.

Except the next day, yesterday, her son with Down Syndrome – who was just seven years old and had charmed many people at the hearing – died from a heart problem while he was outside playing. His name is Zachary. So, no great point to this post except to say please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers and remember how fragile and precious life is.

5 Replies to “”

  1. That was the single most important blog post I read today. The family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Dear Eduwonk,

    I wanted to share my thoughts on your post about Zachary. I was truly moved.

    I would like to start by saying I find it both timely and important that you share a story of grassroots political activism on a day you had planned to write about Kennedy, Obama, and education. The mother in your story showed up at the meeting to take an active role in making our educational system fairer and more just for all students. It was not an act of grandstanding or “theater,” but rather an ethical act of hope that through her words, policy may be informed by the very people who it affects. The picture you paint of a woman waiting to be heard with a sleeping child in her arms is a poignant image of justice-seeking—a quiet reminder for all in the room about the connection between laws and life.

    A few words about Zachary’s legacy…Simply based on this story, I know the effect he had on the world was great. As his mother shared their story that night, people heard. The busy, tired, and perhaps cynical leaders of the meeting looked out across the room and thought more deeply about the decisions with which they were confronted. Zachary changed the world by his example.

    We are all asked to be as involved, like Zachary and his mother, in creating the educational system we want for our children.

    Thank you for sharing his story.

  3. My heart goes out to this mother. She acted as an advocate for her child, calmly and without drama. She must miss him terribly now.

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