Letter: A shared birthday and the seeds of pride

Published: 1/21/2021 12:03:00 AM

Jan. 19 was my 67th birthday and the 214th birthday of Robert E. Lee, a “Great Southern General.”

In 1960, I entered the first grade in Pensacola, Fla., where my father was stationed. On Jan. 19, 1961, my first-grade teacher announced that it was the birthday of Robert E. Lee, a Great Southern General. When I announced, with great pride, that it was also my birthday, I was a celebrity for a day in the eyes of my 7-year-old peers. The following year, the same scenario repeated itself. Once again, I was celebrity for a day. The teachers never mentioned that he lost the war, only that he was a Great Southern General.

In June 1962, with unrest in the South, we moved to Lawrence, Mass. When Jan. 19, 1963, came along, I anticipated being a celebrity when my new third-grade peers heard of my shared birthday. As the morning dragged on, the teacher never mentioned the Great Southern General. I approached her desk and told her that it was my birthday, the same as Robert E. Lee’s, the Great Southern General. She patted my hand and said, “That’s nice dear,” and sent me off to recess.

I was so confused. Where was the acknowledgement for Robert E. Lee? His birthday was clearly marked on the calendar for all to see (back then it was).

Pride, even misplaced, can be instilled at a young age. What else would I be told, had we stayed in Florida?



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