The Lasting Legacy of Good Teachers

John Glenn says his dad’s favorite president to work with was John F. Kennedy. Here, Edmund Glenn (left) and Kennedy share a laugh. Photo courtesy of John Glenn

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. -Mark Van Doren

I thought I would take this opportunity to launch a series of posts about teachers who influenced me and others, part of their lasting legacy. While I was blessed with many good ones during my K-12 career (I even remember the name of my 1st grade teacher), the ones I remember the most are faculty from my undergraduate and graduate (MA, Ph.D.) programs.

I was lucky enough to be a student in Prof. Edmund S. Glenn’s upper division course on intercultural communication at the University of Delaware. In fact, I still have one of the assigned readings in which his work is cited. I stumbled upon a 2018 article about him in a local Virginia newspaper where one of his sons, John Glenn, lives. “My Dad would be proud that you enjoyed his course and still remember it. He loved teaching the course, and he loved his students. He was committed to trying to make the world a better place,” John told me via email. Prof. Glenn taught at UD from 1968 to 1978. He passed away in 1987 at the age of 72.

I discovered that Prof. Glenn was the interpreter for John Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle at their fateful May 1961 meeting in Paris. Here’s a relevant excerpt from an April 2020 article of mine entitled A Letter From Viet Nam on the Occasion of the 45th Anniversary of the End of the War:

Once again, it could have been otherwise. When they met in May 1961, the French president Charles de Gaulle spoke these prophetic words to President John F. Kennedy:  ‘You will find that intervention in this area will be an endless entanglement. Once a nation has been aroused, no foreign power, however strong, can impose its will upon it. You will discover this for yourselves. For even if you find local leaders who in their own interests are prepared to obey you, the people will not agree to it, and indeed do not want you. The ideology which you invoke will make no difference. Indeed, in the eyes of the masses it will become identified with your will to power. That is why the more you become involved out there against Communism, the more the Communists will appear as the champions of national independence, and the more support they will receive, if only from despair.

De Gaulle later said that ‘Kennedy listened to me but events were to prove that I had failed to convince.’

Prof. Glenn’s immortality is not only in his children but the thousands of students whose minds he touched and whose paths he influenced.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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