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A journalist living humanely

Steve Charles—TIME magazine Miami Bureau Chief Tim Padgett ’84 travels to New York next month to receive the Cabot Prize from Columbia University for his outstanding reporting on Latin America.

But I’ve learned much and been moved by his recent coverage of the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast.

Some of his best work is found at TIME Online. His "Flying with a New Orleans Rescue Crew" snatches you up for a ride on a CH-53 helicopter called "Voodoo Child" as it takes to a sky "frenetically dotted with all types and sizes of choppers, bobbing and weaving like bumblebees in a barely controlled chaos amidst the smoke of fires burning along the Mississippi River below."

Padgett’s reporting illuminates challenges I’d never heard about in other coverage, such as the difficulty of providing air traffic control during the "saturation rescue scene" over New Orleans, and then takes you face to face with physically and mentally disabled survivors the crew plucks from the floodwaters. The final paragraph is as carefully observed as the best fiction, but this is reality at its most desperate. Padgett’s words burn these images on the brain and inspires compassion better than any photograph or video coverage I’ve seen.

You can read the article at:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1101340,00.html

And Padgett’s article, "The Complicated Mayor of New Orleans" asks if Ray Nagin is the right man to rebuild the Crescent City. That one’s at:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1109261,00.html

“We can get better!”

Jim Amidon — As the home game photographer for Wabash’s athletic teams, I like to shoot more than just game action. Some of the best shots I get come after a game, when the Little Giants are taking off their uniforms and preparing for their coach’s post-game comments.

So, after games, I tend to stick close to the players. After Saturday’s 50-2 win over Earlham, most members of the Wabash football team were in great spirits —†high fives and hugs were exchanged by all. Coach Creighton gathered the team together and one of the very first things he said was, "We can get better."

Coach Creighton is successful — and makes his men successful in sports and in later life — because, like faculty, he always challenges his student-athletes to improve. And he knows that being overly congratulatory after a 50-2 win would go straight to the heads of his players. Instead, he focused on the penalties the team made and a few things on which the team needs to improve this week at practice.

Having spent a good bit of time in the classroom this month, I know faculty have precisely the same approach: "We can always get better."

“Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive”

Jim Amidon — I read Joy Castro’s powerful memoir The Truth Book quite some time ago, before it was in print. I knew instantly that it had the grace and muscle to attract a large reading audience. Just before its release, The Truth Book was named a "Notable Book" by Booksense.

And the word is spreading.

In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Caroline Leavitt wrote about Castro’s book in her regular Sunday column, "A Reading Life." This week’s column was titled "Rewriting damaged lives with eloquence and truth," and featured Castro’s book along side Floyd Skloot’s A World of Light.

Leavitt called the English professor’s book "an exquisitely powerful and beautifully written memoir."

And:

"Castro, like Skloot, moves effortlessly back and forth through memory, as she tries to ”feel my way into what it all means." Glimpses of her future spark and glint amid the rubble of her past, and she even imagines a richly evocative monologue from her heartbroken birth mother. Castro not only saves herself from her brutal childhood, she saves her brother. And when she has a son, she gives him the childhood she and her brother never had a chance for. Her son is doted on, never struck or scolded. ”Sweetheart, this is what you deserve," she tells him.

"Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive, Castro’s book offers the kind of hope her background never supplied."

Just a quick reminder that the Wabash Bookstore has plenty of copies, and that Joy will read from The Truth Book on October 27 at 8:00 p.m. in Salter Concert Hall.

Floats that don’t float

Jim Amidon — Many colleges and universities have Homecoming parades complete with bands and floats. I gather that many years ago that was the case here at Wabash. Today, though, the freshman floats don’t float. In fact, we call them "decorations." But simply because they don’t roll down the street behind a John Deere doesn’t mean our kids don’t work just as hard as anyone else. Just take a look at the tired eyes of the freshmen from eight fraternities and and the independents who built Homecoming decorations — I’m sure some pulled the first of what will become many Wabash all-nighters.

Kudos to Rick Warner, Patrick Myers, and Sherry Ross, who rolled out of bed early on a damp Saturday morning to walk the entire length of campus to serve the Sphinx Club as judges for this year’s competition.

The Delts put on a boxing match for their "KO the Quakers" theme; the independents, who built decorations over 20 feet tall at Crawford Hall, attempted to bribe the judges with juice and fruit; and the Phi Psi’s decorations stretched 60-70 feet across the lawn. Interestingly, the Fiji decorations feature a burning pot, complete with dry, old wood around the base —guess that will make it easier to set fire to it (anybody else remember the huge blaze there a few years ago?).

But the moment of the morning came after I had taken pictures on the west end of campus and was headed south to Lambda Chi. There I saw the Delt queen having his, er, her nails painted. I was so confused.

Ah, Homecoming!

Jim Amidon — Okay, I can side with some members of the faculty who say Homecoming is a giant sleep-depriving waste of time and leads to an unproductive week in the classroom.

But it is a lot of fun — for the freshmen and for those of us who wish we were 18 again.

Chapel Sing, in its new format, worked well, I thought. None of the kids were really screaming the song (well, maybe Sigma Chi and Phi Delt), and the Sphinx Club did a good job of evaluating those freshmen who really knew the words. Independents were a part of the fun again this year. The students I talked to after it was all over said it was "a blast," the "most fun I’ve had at Wabash so far," and a tremendous "bonding experience." And best of all, the guys I talked to Thursday afternoon still had their voices!

Friday morning as Howard Hewitt and I were planning out coverage of the weekend, we noticed a Beta freshman crashed on top of his house’s Homecoming decoration. Not exactly sure why they feel the need to guard them all night, or why the guy was nestled so deeply in a sleeping bag — it was, after all, hot and humid. But it made for a great picture.

I love Homecoming. Leaves are beginning to change; the bright red banners line the streets; the stadium will be packed on Saturday; and sure, for one week this fall, the Rhynies are exhausted… but having the time of their lives.


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