D-Day + Two Years

Diagnosis day, it’s here again. Some days reach the level you don’t even have to say what it is. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. But not all of those anniversaries are good things. Some of them are reminders of the world turning upside down. Realizing that nothing would ever be the same. A total change in your perspective, in your life.

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A Year Like No Other

This time last year, I was being admitted to ORMC and being prepped for surgery for an “abscess.” Twenty-one days later, most of which I had spent barely conscious at ORMC and then Emory Midtown, I had been diagnosed with Sweet’s Syndrome. It was yet another condition I, my family, and most of my medical team had never heard of. Thankfully, we were at a hospital where someone had seen it before (which is a huge feat given only a few hundred cases have ever been documented). Even after I made it home, I faced the worst depression I’ve ever endured, being unable to walk or care for myself, and continuing pain. Eventually I graduated from the wheelchair to a cane. I was able to drive again. And now I’m able to walk unassisted again.
 
Me with my wife and parents following dinner on the one year anniversary of my hospitalization leading to a diagnosis of Sweet’s Syndrome.
It has been an incredibly long year, but I am grateful for how it has brought me together with my caregivers (especially Nikki). I am grateful for caring nurses that went to extraordinary lengths (including learning the Charleston) to assist in my recovery. I never want to go through it again. But I am glad for the things I learned through the process.
 
Tonight, I went to dinner with Nikki, Mom, and Dad. We had fun. I drove us there. I walked in by myself. I ate something other than grits (which was basically the only thing I ate from August through October). And I am humbled by how blessed I am.

A New Chapter

Well, now that all of my students have been told, it is time to announce it to the world. This Friday, September 19th, will be my last day as an Academic Advisor at the Georgia College Center for Student Success. I’ve spent the last week and a half madly fitting in as many advising appointments as possible.

The following Monday, I begin my new journey as the Training Specialist with the Georgia College Department of Human Resources. In this job, I will be conducting needs assessments and implement training and development programs for the university, manage initiative implementation, develop training manuals and course materials, and assist with New Employee Orientation.

My time with CSS has been life changing. My fellow advisors have become my family, both figuratively and literally. Leeann and I both started on the same day, shared an office, and had our friendship grow to the level where our coworkers referred to us as siblings.

Other friendships developed as well. After our move to Lanier Hall, I joined the “BA Corner”  with Rebecca Miles and Chris Lamphere. Eventually, Chris retired, and Nadirah Mayweather filled his slot.

Beyond that, I met my wife through the job. Nikki had been with the department for five weeks when I joined (she had previously been an advisor housed in the Department of Psychological Science for two years). We met that exciting day in August when I first walked into The Bone House. It took a while, but eventually a friendship, then relationship blossomed.

Beyond my colleagues, it has been a true honor to work with some of the students that have come across my path. Watching them learn, grow, and mature has been an immensely rewarding experience.

Likewise, I am grateful for my own growth and learning experiences over the last three years. The mentors I have had in the department have taught me valuable life lessons and experience. They were standing next to me and behind me on the rough days, and celebrating with me on the good.

Monday starts a new chapter in my life. But I will never forget the events of the chapter that is now drawing to a close. And for those events, lessons, and memories, I will always be grateful.

Poem In Your Pocket Day

Source: University of Pennsylvania, Public Domain

My morning commute (with NPR) has informed me that today is National Poem in your Pocket Day. While this may surprise many, I am a fan of poetry. I thought about posting If by Rudyard Kipling. I thought about The Patriot Pastor by Thomas Buchanan Read. But, I finally settled on one that has been a favorite of mine through the years. 

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Hello, Free Time

Now, I know that the holiday season is always filled with families, gatherings, and more than its fair share of stress. But compared to the final exam week which you have just endured, it is pure rest and relaxation.

Maybe you’ll kick back and remember what it was like to read for pleasure. Or, more likely if you were like me, looking at a book is the farthest thing from your mind.  Maybe you will spend the entire break napping. I am sure you will want to spend time with family and your hometown friends.  Or, you want to be able to sit back and relax and watch a good movie.

Well, if a film is your plan, here are a few recommendations. Some are political. Some are holiday based. But they are all among my favorites.

The American President
This is without a doubt one of my favorite films. I show it to every American Government class that I teach. Most of the time, the guys get annoyed that I make them watch a “chick flick.” But, they always find it interesting by the end. It covers nearly every aspect of government (okay, it leaves the judiciary out) and shows how they work together. Did I mention that it also has amazing dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox? Take my word for it, watch it!

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

Amazing Grace
When most people think of the term “Amazing Grace,” they think of the song. I would venture to guess that most people do not know the song’s – or the composer’s – history. “I once was blind, but now I see” is only the beginning. This film is the story of William Wilberforce’s struggle to end the slave trade in Great Britain. It was a difficult and lifelong struggle. But, it does serve as a valuable reminder that a just cause is worth the effort. I will be honest. This is a difficult film to watch. But trust me, the ending is more than worth it.

When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more. 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
This is one of the ones I know I’m going to watch over the break. It should be shown to every political science freshman seminar course. It should be required viewing to every opening session of Congress and every state legislative body. The plot is well known: A naive man who loves his country is appointed to the United States Senate to be the puppet of his state’s political machine. The only problem is he is loyal to his principles and not the machine. So, the machine tries it’s best to destroy him. But, he doesn’t give up without a fight.

Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see.

White Christmas
This is a holiday classic. One of the several films made from the music of the failed (at the time) Holiday Inn, it features the crooning of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the dance steps of Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen Rohe.  As someone who was raised on the old musicals, this is a cornerstone of my childhood holiday experience. While it’s not exactly political, it is a good heartwarming way to spend a few hours.

I am not satisfied with the conduct of this division. Some of you men are under the impression having been at Anzio entitles you not to wear neckties. Well you’re wrong. Neckties will be worn in this area! And look at the rest of your appearance. You’re a disgrace to the outfit. You’re soft! You’re sloppy! You’re unruly! You’re undisciplined!… And I never saw anything look so wonderful in my whole life. Thank you all! 

What are some of your favorite holiday or political films?

Learning to be Prepared

“In moments of crisis, the initiative passes to those who are the best prepared.”
~ Morton C. Blackwell ~

That quote is one which is firmly engrained in my memory. As number forty-one in Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process, it is not only great advice for those working in politics, but also for everyday life. I know I have shared it repeatedly with my advisees over the past few weeks. I even have a framed copy propped on the windowsill in my office.

In everything, preparation is the key. In your classes, your grades will be substantially better if you actually studied before the exam. Your grades will likewise improve if you studied over the course of the preceding week instead of holding out for a last minute all-nighter in the library.

Preparation is planning. It is being informed. Every college student should have a notebook with a list of classes required to graduate, a list of classes they have already taken, and a list of classes which are still required. As the time for registration draws near, compare the list of needed classes to the classes being offered. You should already know what classes are needed well before registration opens – and for that matter, before you meet with your advisor.

You are in control of your education. You are no longer in high school. While advisors (or advisers?) and professors are here to help you, you must be proactive. We can point you in the right direction, but you must also do your part as well. The goal of college is not to get you – the student – to be able to repeat information on a test. The point of college is not even to get good grades.

Instead, the entire point of college is actually two-fold. First, we should teach you – not what to think – but HOW to think. Over your course of study, you should learn how to process information and make decisions from it; knowledge is much more than being able to recite the information presented in a lecture. Secondly, we are to teach you the skills necessary to be successful in your career. If you miss a deadline in college, it might affect your grade. If you miss a deadline in the professional world, it could very well cost your job. I would much rather teach my students and advisees the value of a preparation and organization now, rather than them having to learn it from an employer later.

Graduation and Memories

On the wall of my bedroom, I have a rather large frame. It holds a certificate stating that I had been inducted into the “Distinguished Order of the Servant-Leader” in October of 2005. I and a friend of mine, Wes Ransom, were among the first civilian college students to have received the award in anyone’s memory. Needless to say, I was quite proud of myself. But, there was one thing missing. My best friend wasn’t there. You see, Josh was embarking on a different journey. That hot, humid Sunday afternoon in the Georgia fall, Josh was leaving behind the safe confines of our hometown to embark on what is, for anyone, a life altering journey. He was on his way to a small island off the coast of South Carolina where they make Marines.

Josh with me and LTC Ed Shelor (USMC Ret) who is an
Assistant Professor of History at Georgia Military College

A few months later, I did get a visit from Josh on campus. After he finished his initial training, the Marine Corps sent him back to recruit. One of his stops was Georgia Military College. Never would have I expected then what was to take place in the coming years.

I graduated from GMC, then went on to Georgia College. Josh graduated School of Infantry, then joined the fleet with the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He went on to complete two tours of duty in Iraq before completing his contract to the Corps and transferring to inactive reserves.

Josh surprised me when he did not reenlist, and instead he decided to go college. By this time, I was in grad school. He had decided he wanted to go into physical therapy and begin his studies at my alma mater, Georgia Military College along with his younger brother, Jake, who was studying history.

The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.
~ Thucydides ~

He had already more than proved himself on the battlefield. Soon, he excelled academically as well. I graduated from Georgia College, and took an instructors job at GMC. For the past year, it has amazed me how his fellow students flock to him and how they speak of him even when he is not around. Tonight, Josh (and Jake, who will be unable to attend due to military duty) will graduate from Georgia Military College. Not only will he walk across the stage with a 4.0 GPA, but he will receive an even higher award. He has been named the Distinguished Graduate for the institution. The nomination, written by LTC Shelor, reads as follows:

Joshua S. Rogers is a full-time commuter student who is without parallel among his graduating peers.  He is the quintessential scholar/leader who has maintained a 4.00 GPA while completing his studies at GMC in an Associate in Science in General Studies.  The habit of success is one of the cornerstones of Joshua’s way of life and he’s shown good academic and character traits from the first day he stepped on this campus.  He is a positive example and inspiration for his fellow students and even the faculty in his classes.   Mr. Rogers is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the junior college honor society for academic success and servant leadership, and can be seen on any given day providing assistance to his fellow students all around the GMC campus.  Mr. Rogers exemplifies the three words to live by that GMC emphasizes by his consistent display of Duty, Honor, Country.  Joshua enlisted in the USMC in 2005 and eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant.  As a Corporal of Marines he served as a fire team leader in combat in Iraq from January – July 2007 and moved up to squad leader from March 2008 – October 2008.  It is a rare thing to have a student in our classes that has been through the crucible of combat , who has been truly tested in matters of life and death, yet he is one of the gentle scholars who brings such honor and humility to our campus.  Joshua now brings his maturity and critical thinking skills to every aspect of his association with GMC and is most deserving of the highest recognition GMC can bestow on it students.

He is a true scholar that adds intellectual rigor to the course of study for all his classmates.  His cultural literacy, higher order of thinking skills, and desire for knowledge mark him among the top ONE percent of students I have ever known in my academic career. In class he embodies all the characteristics of a standout leader and role model.  He also thinks beyond the material and brings his own intellectual and deeply spiritual perspective to discussions.

I will be there tonight. I will be in my robe, my hood, my stole, and my cords. Josh will be in his Dress Blues. I know his parents will be proud. But, I also know that the pride they have for Josh’s accomplishments will at best be equal to the pride I have for him, to know him, and the honor I have in calling him my friend.

Jake, me, and Josh at a friend’s wedding a few years ago. 

Updated:
Here is a picture from after the commencement ceremony.