Several years ago I received an email about a teacher who removed all the desks from her classroom and told her students that they couldn’t have their desks until they told her how they earned them. During the day, none could, so she had to tell them. In the last class of the day, she opened the door and 27 U.S. veterans walked in, each carrying a desk. The teacher then told the students how they earned their desks.
Is this true? Usually, these stories are apocryphal, or embellished upon a kernel of fact. Rarely, they’re true, but this one appears to be.
The story made its way to the chain e-mail from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s March 2, 2007, speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, according to fact-finders Snopes.com and truthorfiction.com. Huckabee also referenced the story in other speeches and in his address at the 2008 Republican National Convention. You can view one of the speeches at http://tinyurl.com/275rdj2 and read the text of his RNC remarks as printed in the New York Daily News at http://tinyurl.com/2e9x6xc.
The desk episode occurred on the first day of school in 2005 in Martha Cothren’s military history class at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, Huckabee recounted. Cothren received permission from the principal and the school superintendent to remove the desks. At each period, she asked the students to tell her how they earned the desks, Huckabee said.
Some guessed their good grades earned the desks. Good grades are important Cothren told the students, but that answer wasn’t right.
Some said maybe it was their behavior. Not correct.
By the afternoon, Huckabee said, children had called their parents and all four local TV news networks showed up to find out what was going on.
By the final period, no one had guessed correctly, Huckabee said.
Cothren gathered all her students to give them the answer. She opened the door, the veterans walked in with the desks, set them in rows and stood against the wall, according to Huckabee.
The teacher turned to the class and said, “You don’t have to earn those desks. These guys already did. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.
”No one charged you for your desk. But it wasn’t really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never forget it.”
Now, when Huckabee told the story in various speeches, he was a candidate for president. Could he have embellished the story on the campaign trail?
Barbara Mikkelson of the husband and wife team that runs Snopes.com talked to Cothren, who confirmed what happened that day. Cothren, the daughter of a World War II POW, regularly has veterans visit her classroom to help teach her military history course, Mikkelson writes. A recurring theme in her lessons on World War II and the Vietnam War is an appreciation for members of the armed forces.
In May 2005, Cothren’s class organized a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Week and thank-you ceremony, reports Snopes.com, a well-respected nonpartisan website that confirms or debunks rumors and urban legends. During the week, students videotaped veterans as they recalled their war memories. Through the years, Cothren’s students also have sent many care packages to U.S. service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and have sent thousands of letters to military personnel serving overseas.
In 2006, Snopes.com notes, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their Teacher of the Year.
Isn’t this a wonderful story. Hope you enjoyed and appreciated it.
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