One of the reasons I became an English teacher, and probably one of the reasons that I tended to ‘buck the system’, is because of the movie that was released in 1989 called, Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams stars as John Keating who goes back to teach English at his alma mater and in the process, opens the eyes of several young men trying to figure out their priorities and their futures.
This week, Apple released its latest advertisement for its iPad Air which uses a voiceover of Robin Williams’ English teacher John Keating from the film Dead Poets Society:
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman: "O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
"That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
What will your verse be?
Oh, the second that commercial began with the quote from Keating’s character which included the quote from Whitman, I lost my breath. Everything stopped, and in my head I quoted along with Professor Keating, challenging my kids, explaining the beauty of words and how powerful they can be, but also knowing because of the power of words, how hurtful and painful they can be.
The passage is meant to inspire, and it does, but as adults, especially if we work with teens, we need to inspire our teens to use their words for good and positive, uplifting reasons. We, ourselves, need to use our own words for positive and uplifting reasons.
We also need to realize, in the midst of how powerful words are, that if we use them to hurt other people, if we use them to demean, ridicule, or create pain for other people, we are misusing our power. We’ve all heard the ‘sing-song’ fairy tale about sticks and stones. Here is the REALITY of the POWER of words: "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our spirit." Thank you to James Howe, the author of, The Misfits, and the inspiration for No Name Calling Week. It’s coming up this January 20-24, so this is an opportune time to remind your teens the power of the words they use and to choose wisely when answering the question: "What will your verse be?"
"Apple debuts new iPad Air ‘Your Verse Anthem’ TV ad (with video)." January 12, 2014. http://macdailynews.com