Nick Seaver
College Writing
Ms. Ennamorati
September 20, 2002

Write a paper about someone’s life—a short biography. It was a simple enough assignment for a seventh grader. So I did the same as all my classmates, I went home and asked my parents who I should write about. It was then that my uncle’s name came up. My first instinct was to move on. My uncle lived in Wisconsin, and it would be too hard to interview him. In addition while I knew him, I didn’t really know much about him, which can intimidate someone at that age. However, I gave in and decided I might as well learn about his life. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
The first step in writing the paper was to call Ted and take notes on whatever stories he told me. However it was not long into the conversation before my hand fell still as his past unfolded before me. He gave me a brief overview of what he had done after college, and told it as though it were a typical life story. However behind his words was a tale of a true hero. As each chapter of his life was revealed, patterns began to appear. Throughout his life he was dedicated to helping people, even through extreme opposition.

	While his whole life was dedicated to teaching, the fist part was in the traditional way.  He was a high school English teacher in Vermont. However he gained local enemies by challenged social standards.  When others found it unacceptable to speak of class distinction, Ted taught about it.    It was because of this “radical liberalism” that he was fired, and moved to Jackson, Mississippi.  It was here that he became a “freedom teacher.”  He worked for years registering voters and getting people of all races involved in government.  He continued this work through some of the tensest years of the civil rights movement facing the threats of the KKK.  In 1968 he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was here that he took on his next challenge.  He defended the poor of Milwaukee against the harmful plans of city hall.  In the process he earned the respect of all involved.  In books published on the history of Milwaukee his opponents describe him with the utmost respect.

While the assignment ended here, the lesson I took from it did not. This paper gave me an understanding of Ted’s past, however it turned out that it was his future that would have a profound effect on me. At the time that this paper was written Ted had had cancer for a couple of years. It started as lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking and spread. When Ted found out that he had cancer he did exactly what he always wanted to. He sailed a boat in the Caribbean with family and friends. The second time he was diagnosed he did this again. However the third time, the cancer had spread further, so he sold his house in Milwaukee, moved to Maine, and bought a trimaran. This was the tool with which he taught me two things. The first was the art of sailing. It was sailing that brought him more joy then any other thing in this world. It was not a hobby or a past time, it was life. It is overcoming what is in front of you to reach a destination, however rough or smooth it may be. He sailed in the same way he lived, with dedication, and on the edge. It was in the way he sailed, and the way he raced where I could see how he believed one should live their life.

	As the cancer progressed and he eventually lost the ability to walk he did not give up sailing.  He took this like each wave he’d sailed through before.  With the help of his son he adapted the boat so that he could continue to sail and captain races for several more months.  As the cancer progressed further I observed two things that changed me forever: what it means to live, and what it means to die.  I became suddenly aware that so many live somewhere between, never pushing limits, or changing what they feel to be wrong.  

Later, with time between me and his death, I began to see what I can only assume Ted saw in the world. He saw a world that has faults, but a world that has so much more potential for peace and justice. I began to see that the way that Ted had achieved so much was by combining realism with his incredible idealism. It was only then, after truly getting to know him, and having an appreciation for his past that I understood what allowed him to inspire so many. It was a quality that I first really witnessed in his sailing, but was present in everything he ever did. It was passion—a passion for justice, equality, and most importantly, a passion for life. It was then that I realized that this is the only thing that Ted tried to pass on, and in doing so inspires me, and all those he touched to try to live a life that only he would dare to dream.

Last edited by g.   Page last modified on March 17, 2005

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