In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, did something not to be forgotten.
On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.
When the first period students entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.
Looking around, confused, they asked, "Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?"
She replied, "You can't have a desk until you tell me what you have done to earn the right to sit at a desk."
They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."
"No," she said.
"Maybe it's our behavior."
She told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.
By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.
The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom.
Martha Cothren said, "Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I would like to tell you."
At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.
Twenty-seven U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The soldiers began placing the school desks in rows, and then walked over and stand alongside the wall.
By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place students began to grasp, for perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.
Martha said, "You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it."
This is a lesson in social responsibility. Each one of you has been given the gift of the right to an education. That gift was earned for you by the sacrifices of others. Cherish it. Use it wisely. Make the most of it every day of your life.
Good night, gentlemen.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you read this in English, thank a soldier!