From Dumbbell English To Columnist

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - July 22, 2009
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As a junior in high school in Central California, my classmates and I were required to take the junior composition exam and the junior comprehensive math test to determine who would need remedial classes - a semester each - as a senior. In my junior comp exam I wrote about Yosemite Valley, misspelling “vally” every time I used it, each time counting against my score. Having flunked the math test as well, I ended up taking “Dumbbell English” and “Bonehead Math” - as we called them (self-esteem wasn’t as big a deal in those days). Anyway, I had great teachers and graduated reasonably competent in both.

But who would have thought from “Dumbbell English” to MidWeek columnist?! I know, some of you are thinking, “Hmmm, suspicions confirmed.” But hopefully, for most of us, it’s just a good reminder that as long as we are still alive, God isn’t finished with us yet.

Actually, I felt connected to MidWeek long before becoming a columnist. I was featured on the cover in November of 1986 for a Veterans Day interview, and again in December of 2000 during the debut of the film Eighteen Days, which tells the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1963 during which - as a Navy pilot - I flew several low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuba. My wife, Susan Page, was already writing for MidWeek when we came together in 1993. I marveled at her discipline in creating a new column each week - and she still does, with ever increasing depth, sensitivity and humor.

Six years ago editor Don Chapman invited me to submit a few columns - maybe once or twice a month - just to get a feel for it. I did, and soon came to value the opportunity to write things from a perspective from which I felt too few others were writing, about America, family, business, our military, my dogs, our leadership, our beautiful Hawaii, national security, our educational system, Wahine volleyball, our founding fathers, grandchildren, our law-makers, our taxes, our mainstream media, traffic, religion and threats to aloha right here at home. No subject has been off limits. I’ve written three cover stories, one on the controversy over Pearl Harbor visitor concessions in 2006, one on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963 in 2000, and one on the enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay after five days there as a MidWeek correspondent.

I have tried to stay true to my very first column pledge: to write only the truth, to write according to my conscience and to avoid political correctness. This has garnered a wide diversity of feedback (some “orchids,” more “slings and arrows”) in letters to the editor and by e-mail, but at least - as any MidWeek columnist would say - I know I’m being read.

Now as we celebrate MidWeek‘s 25th birthday, I feel very blessed to be a part of the MidWeek family, to be a member of the corps of columnists who consistently bring to Oahu’s half-million readers thoughtful, diverse, relevant and frequently humorous commentary. I have appreciated and learned from my association with an extremely professional editor and editorial staff, whose trust is manifest in their loose reins. I thank the cross-section of Oahu’s business owners for entrusting their advertising dollars to MidWeek, thereby making it available to all.

And I’m grateful to our loyal readers who represent the grass roots of our community; frugal readers who clip MidWeek‘s coupons before they shop, readers who care enough to debate the “opinion” pieces over breakfast at Zippy’s and McDonald’s, and readers who make their own contribution by saying their piece in the Letters section, frequently in no uncertain terms.

Since MidWeek‘s Silver Anniversary nearly coincides with my own “Diamond” birthday, I have been thinking this might be a good time to hang it up. But after reflecting back to write this column, to scroll back through the archives and see the accumulation of one’s contribution and the possible differences it might have made, I think I’ll recommit to the privilege, the responsibility and the joy.

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