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  • People in Profile
  • Siamak Vossoughi (bio)

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Lennon artist: Jef Aerosol

People in Profile was Mrs. Leavenworth’s own creation. It had originally started with historical figures in general, but by the second year she had changed it to humanitarians. There ought to be a good reason why a child should get dressed up as someone from history and sit on a stage being interviewed about their life and their historical significance as their parents watched. [End Page 46]

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Gandhi image courtesy of Organ Museum (thierry Ehrmann)
© 2014

[End Page 47]

She didn’t want them to think of it as Halloween. She wanted the night to take a side.

At six thirty, Cesar Chavez was being chased by Albert Einstein through the school hallway in their excitement for the show. They forgot that they had fought earlier that day in the playground. Mrs. Leavenworth had been upset to see it, but it had been a humanitarian fight. They both wanted a lot from the world, the way that a ten-year-old boy ought to want a lot from the world. Sometimes that got them in the way of each other. For just a moment, she was glad to see them playing together again, before telling them to get backstage for the costume check.

Roberto Clemente looked at himself in a mirror. He was very excited to tell everyone that he was more than a baseball player. He was most excited to tell them that he had died in a plane crash transporting supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He thought that if Helen Keller’s older sister happened to be in the audience, she would be moved to hear it, and she would remember how moved she was the next time she saw him in the hall by the sixth grade lockers. He took some practice swings, squinting in the Pittsburgh summer-day sun.

The first year after Mrs. Leavenworth had changed it, there was an appearance by Huey P. Newton. She hadn’t known much about him. She hadn’t known about the free-breakfast program for kids, and she hadn’t known about the schools the Black Panthers had started where children learned yoga to manage their misbehavior. She had been very glad to learn it. The night had taken a side all right. She had felt glad to have left Maysburg and come to the city. Everyone she had left behind had felt balanced out by Huey P. Newton. And she had felt proud because she had known when she left that they would be.

She wished now that everyone back home could see them, that they could see the caliber of people she spent her days among. She wished they could see Audrey Hepburn helping Charlie Chaplin put on his mustache. They wouldn’t think there was any side to it then, because what could possibly be the side against that? Unless there was a part of them that believed it wasn’t a person’s job to be great. That was the thing she had feared about the place and that she had wanted to leave before seeing it become the thing she hated. She never really knew for sure, but in her truest heart, she could see it, she could see them asking: Why tell a child they belong on the world stage? [End Page 48]

It was good to know that the reason was clear when she saw them. It was in their faces. Maybe what they were saying back home was, Why tell them that the world stage is the place for a man or a woman to be good? It’s more important that they know how to do it on a smaller scale. All the little things her mother did for her father and all the little things her father did for her mother.

But she felt if she could show them, they would know it didn’t have to be one or the other. The larger scale could help with the smaller scale, and the smaller scale could help with the...


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pp. 46-52
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