By Liam McDermott
George Bernard Shaw once wrote “those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.”
Try telling that to Brian May PhD; Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University (the university that
awarded me my degree), oh and lead guitarist of the rock band Queen. Or Joanne Rowling who moved to Portugal in the early 1990s to teach English as a foreign language. She taught at night and during the day she penned the first three chapters of Harry Potter.
Last weekend I went to the Irish Film Festival at the Bangkok Screening Room to see the movie “John Hume in America”. It had a cast that included Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, Liam Neeson and Bono. By the end I was moved to tears. I left the cool, dark theatre and stepped back out into the stifling heat of Bangkok. As I walked towards the Skytrain beneath the myriad lights of the tall buildings my mind went back to a moment in my childhood.
I was fourteen and had just got home from school. My clothes were wet as it had been raining. I dropped my school bag at the kitchen door, kicked off my shoes, threw my school blazer over a chair and opened the fridge. Then I realised I was alone. My two younger sisters are usually doing their homework at the kitchen table while Mum is cooking dinner with a daytime quiz show on the television. But no… the kitchen was empty. Silent. I walked through the house shouting “hello” until I got a response from the drawing room (yes, we had a drawing room) that no one ever went into. “We’re in here,” called Mum. I went inside and the scene that greeted me was not what I expected.
My sisters were sitting next to each other like proper little house angels, Dad was wearing a shirt and tie he usually only wore on Sunday and the Royal Doulton collection was carefully placed on a tray (and not just for show – there was actually a selection of cakes and tea). But all of this paled into insignificance when a large man in a dark suit, thick-rimmed glasses and unruly hair came towards me holding out his hand. Before I knew what was happening I was shaking hands with John Hume (an old friend of my parents’).
Now I know what you’re thinking ‘John who?’
John Hume founded the civil-rights movement in Derry City in the 1960s. He persuaded the IRA to lay down their weapons and was the chief architect of the peace agreement that ended thirty years of conflict in Northern Ireland. A peace that has lasted over twenty years. He is the only person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Ghandi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award. And guess what… he was also a school teacher.
In fact many teachers have changed the world. So I say to you Mr. Shaw, “stick that in your pipe and smoke it!”
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