True Meaning of Literacy (cont'd...)
Then, in 1966, she heard a presentation by Dr. Frank Laubach, the founder of Laubach Literacy. He inspired her to formalize her training, and she earned her tutoring certificate a few months later. She would eventually train over two thousand other tutors and lead more than one hundred and fifty literacy workshops in the thirty years that followed. I believe that record of longevity makes her the Cal Ripken of literacy.
In 1970, Mildred took over a struggling literacy group, making her home its base of operations, hand posting advertisements throughout the community, and building up the foundations for what is now the successful Eastern Massachusetts Literacy Council. Even at the present time, she refuses to use the Brookhaven Retirement Community, her present home, as the place of retirement it is supposed to be. For Mildred, it is rather a promising new base of operations, from which she runs a weekly literacy program for the housekeeping staff. Just one indication of the scope of Mildred's influence is the fact that two of her recent graduates now own their own businesses. What an admirable demonstration of unflagging dedication to the cause of literacy.
Mildred knows that those in need of literacy skills do not fit any one particular profile. Recognizing the diversity of people and their needs, Mildred has been remarkably resourceful in tailoring literacy programs to various underserved groups. In 1974, she sponsored outreach training programs for the inmates at Concord State Prison Farm. In 1976, she helped set up literacy programs for Cambodian and Laotian refugees for the Lexington Interfaith Coalition. In 1985, she pioneered a tutor training program at the Greenwood Methodist Church in Roxbury. And as recently as 1993, she began the Workplace Literacy Program at Winchester Hospital. In sum, her history of longevity and dedication has always been accompanied by a pattern of dynamic innovation.
These three characteristics - longevity, dedication, and innovation-are the criteria by which we select the annual recipient of the Patricia Crail Brown Award, named after another giant in the history of this great literacy cause and presented by Laubach Literacy. Mildred's inspiring and exemplary embodiment of these three criteria makes her an easy choice for the award, and we pay grateful tribute to her this day.
I would like to close by remarking on another tribute, this one delivered by President James Garfield to Mark Hopkins, the president of Williams College. Addressing a group alumni, he said he didn't want to close "without mention of the value of a true teacher. Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings apparatus and libraries without him." Those of us who have watched and admired the selfless service of Mildred Gilman and thousand like her, know the truth of President Garfield's words. In the final analysis, literacy is a product of aspiring students and devoted teachers. It is not a product of institutions or diplomas. Mark Twain once remarked that a cauliflower is just a cabbage with a college degree. Well, sometimes it takes more than a piece of paper to do the job. It takes a real teacher.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought. Among the many insights the young Anne Frank left behind, was this simple entry from her journal, in March of 1944: "Whoever is happy, will make others happy too." If Anne Frank was right, then based on the number of lives Mildred Gilman has touched, the new worlds she has made accessible to thousands of students, she is a happy person indeed. And so are all who are engaged in this great cause.
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