The Would-Be Game Changer
(Belleville, Illinois circa 2008)
It was late November 2008. My son Zec and I were on our way to Olney, Illinois, for the first shotgun weekend of deer season and we were excited. There was nothing better in those days than some serious guy time with our friends Jim and Dusty Baker in deer camp! Zec picked me up in his truck and informed me we needed to run by Southwestern Illinois College on the way to Richland Country. He had a research paper he had written for a history class that he needed to drop off. As we picked our way south and east through the traffic, I inquired as to the topic of the paper and he responded, “My Favorite President.” That seemed easy enough. As we listened to Robert Earl Keen, Jr., sing us songs about complicated Texans, I saw the paper on the floorboard and asked Zec if he minded if I took a peek. “Go ahead.”
As a person with a Master’s Degree in history and a former history teacher, it has never been my practice to offer unrequested academic help to my children (it seems like gratis work) but I was not expecting this. The paper was entitled, “My Favorite President: Alexander Hamilton.” Amazed and somewhat stunned by what I held before me, I closely examined the paper only to find a cut and paste encyclopedia effort extolling the significant accomplishments and life of American patriot Alexander Hamilton. As we neared the college, I said with some trepidation, “Zec, would it be a game changer for you to know that Alexander Hamilton was never a President of the United States? He took a sip of coffee, kept his eyes on the road and didn’t even show emotion or blink when he replied, “Nope.” Zec stopped his truck in a no parking zone, turned on his flashers, jogged inside and turned in the paper for his college history class. There were truly no words to say. We stopped by the local chicken establishment, got a bucket of nuggets (with stuff to dip them in) and a couple of large Cokes and headed due east for a two-hour drive to deer camp.
A couple of weeks later, Zec said to me in utter frustration, “You know that paper I turned in? The guy gave me an “F.” I told him that bad things happen to good people (I read this in a Robert Schuler book), leaned back and smiled. My faith in American higher education had been restored.