Monday, April 7, 2014

'And the angels sing'

When I graduated from high school, I had the high honor and distinction of starting my college career by attending classes at Lincoln University.

When I tell people that, I notice they sometimes look at me funny.

I see them kind of tilt their heads, squint their eyes or kind or scratch their hair. So why would some people consider it maybe a bit odd for me to have attended Lincoln University?

I speak to a lot of groups, and I always tell this story. Those two years I spent at Lincoln were one of the seminal events of my life.

When I tell people I atttended Lincoln and the effect it had on me, they sometimes don't understand why. I always ask them to look around the room, and tell me what you see?

They still don't get it.

That's when I tell them they see exactly what I saw just about every day growing up in Oxford, Pa. They see a lot of faces that look just like mine.

In other words, white.

I was always in the majority. Sure I had lots of black friends. It was a pretty small town. But I was always in groups where whites made up most of the groups I encountered, either in school or socially.

Then one day I walked into a classroom at Lincoln University and looked around and I realized mine was the only white face in the room.

It was an eye-opening experience, one I prize because of the lessons I learned, specifically in how to treat people. I was always treated great at Lincoln, an equal, just as I hope I always treated people.

I tell people, especially young people, that if they ever get that opportunity they should seize it with both hands and embrace it. I use the lessons I learned at Lincoln every day. I think we would be a lot better off as a society if everyone had that experience.

I was thinking of my days at Lincoln this morning because of someone we lost over the weekend.

Chuck Stone died.

If you don't know who Chuck Stone is, you don't much about Philadelphia journalism.

While I was at Lincoln, I started to develop my love of writing, in particular how it pertains to newspapers. I attended a talk given by Acel Moore, then a distinguished member of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

One of the people he said served as a role model for him was the legendary Daily News columnist Chuck Stone.

I couldn't help but smile.

I had been reading Stone for years in the Daily News. It became something a lunch time ritual. I would usually eat at my mom's sandwich shop in town. While devouring a cheese steak, I would also devour the Daily News, in particular the columns penned by Chuck Stone.

To say Stone's writing were somewhat controversial is kind of like saying Philly fans are passionate. Stone knew how to stir the pot.

Often his writings inspired others to write back. He always titled those columns, "And the angels sing..." I've stolen that line and used it myself a few times since I've been the editor of this newspaper, writing a weekly column of my own.

I am proud to say that one of the reasons I went into newspapers was because of people like Chuck Stone. Surely those other angels, the ones with halos and wings, are singing this morning.

Rest well, Mr. Stone.

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