My favorite reporter, Mr. Charles P. Pierce, writing about my favorite politician — okay, I’m prejudiced, but this Esquire article is still a Great Read:
… You cannot understand how she became a senator—hell, you can’t even understand how she became a public person—unless you understand the fact that, first and foremost, she is a teacher, having taught at Rutgers, and having been a professor of law at the University of Houston, the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and ultimately at Harvard Law School, where she was teaching bankruptcy and contracts in the fall of 2008, just as the global financial system collapsed and threatened the economy of the entire world. Her first great project as a young law professor in Texas had been to learn about how bankruptcy worked in this country, and more important, it was to learn about the people who found themselves in the process. It challenged her assumptions; she had thought she was going out to study the schemers who were working the system and the moochers who were cheating the people to whom they owed money. She learned from the people in the courtrooms that everything she knew about them was wrong, and then she set out to teach the country that everything it thought about those people was wrong….
She sees the country in a different way from most people. She has a natural way of expressing the idea of a political commonwealth by anchoring it in the individual pasts of individual citizens, by teaching history, as it were, to a country that has forgotten much of it. People are drawn to her not necessarily by her intelligence or by her willingness to speak truth to greed but by an ineffable feeling that she is reminding them of something they already knew. Somebody mentions to her that his family rose in this country because his grandfather was a cop, and his father a veteran who used the GI Bill to build a career as a public-school teacher. She rises partway from her chair, her lesson having taken hold.
“I love it. I love it,” she says. “But you and I grew up in the America that was investing in kids like us. That made education possible. Infrastructure. I gave this speech on infrastructure last night. Why infrastructure is important. Why it’s important to the economy, why it’s important to families, why it’s important to the earth, right? Why we’ve got to have that basic transportation infrastructure.
“And everyone gets this. But the choices Washington makes right now don’t reflect our values. The idea that billions of dollars would be left with billionaires through tax loopholes rather than spending that money on repairing roads and bridges? Rather than spending that money on helping our kids get through college? Rather than spending that money on NIH? And rather than a better future for all of our kids? That’s the debate we’re on the cusp of having.”…
Self-government must be an educational enterprise, with lessons learned over and over again, and that is what Elizabeth Warren is about these days. She is still teaching. She teaches because she has learned, and she has learned because she teaches. The great teachers are the ones who remain students at heart, who keep learning from their students, and from the world around them, and from their own drive to know even more about even more things, and who then are able to transmit that knowledge—and more important, the drive to know more—to their students. That is how teachers become immortal.