It was 1991, and I sat in AP government at Coral Gables Senior High, Mr. Jack Robbins stood at the front of the classroom holding a copy of Darkness at Noon.
As he spoke about the Bolshevik Revolution, I wondered — after having witnessed the end of the cold war and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall — why are we reading about this in government?
Just then, Mr. Robbins took off his glasses and said “history will teach you to appreciate civics, it will teach you to value democracy. Rights don’t just disappear, they are often relinquished. Oppression takes many forms and we must consider not just the results but the ideologies that birthed them.”
Over two decades later, I stood in an early voting line for hours. As I watched people leave the line, I thought of Mr. Robbins. I thought about faithfulness to ideologies and how political zeal had threatened one of our most fundamental rights, the right to vote.
On Election Day I asked a friend about his experience; “I finally voted,” he gasped, “it took six hours, like spending the afternoon in a third world country.”
In the weeks that followed we would read countless articles about Florida’s bad example, about the longest wait times in the country. However, amid all the noise no one applauded the Floridians who stood in line for hours to vote, no one recognized the value of their time and the sacrifice that many made to ensure that their vote was cast.
But sadder still is that no one recognized that Florida’s election day debacle is just one example of the disconnect between our state and our local governments. And while I applaud Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s creation of an advisory board to determine what went wrong, if the findings are ignored by the state and the other 66 counties, if our delegation fails to make this a bipartisan priority in the next legislative session then — as often happens in Florida, divided by parties, by parochialism — all will be forgotten in the name of infallibility.
“Who is infallible?” Mr. Robbins asked. “Why does Koestler make a point to state that the “fact is: I no longer believe in my own infallibility. That is why I am lost.”
I raised my hand, “because when you believe you are infallible it’s easier to lead.”
“Is anyone infallible Ms. Regalado?”
“No, Mr. Robbins, no one is infallible.”
That afternoon, Mr. Robbins had the Social Studies Honor Society make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. As they walked down the hall on the way to Camillus House, I asked “but what about the long term solution Mr. Robbins?”
“So far we have recognized that there is a problem and taken action, it’s a first step” he responded.
Here in Florida we need to start by acknowledging the many problems that plagued this last election and take real steps at the local and state level towards solutions.
As for myself, I will begin this holiday season by thanking Mr. Robbins for everything that he taught us and by assuring him that civic responsibility is alive and well in the Sunshine State, so much so that in the spring when the legislative session begins in Tallahassee we will not let them forget what occurred this fall.
Raquel Regalado is a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board.