I woke, this much anticipated morning, to the news of the death of a colleague. Professor Paul Lyons taught history, social work and holocaust studies for 29 years at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where I began my academic career. He was a man dedicated to social justice and committed to teaching young people to think critically about the world and to orient their lives toward the question of justice.
Paul’s response to the attacks on September 11, 2001 was powerful: he collaborated with his fellow Stockton professor David Emmons to teach a course on the event. The power of this response lies in the thoughtful and expansive influence it has on future generations. In the wake of oversimplified, dogmatic rhetoric, Paul responded with a depth of historical understanding and a passion to engage students directly about an event that changed the course of our lives.
So, this morning, as we our attention to the future with the inauguration of the first black president, I also pause to remember all those teachers, like Paul Lyons, committed to orienting young people toward justice and opening the possibility of this moment.