It’s kind of extraordinary to make history. No, I didn’t cure cancer, create a new invention, or discover a new country/continent. Nevertheless, this weekend, I was part of something truly unique and special.
My roommate and I finally did something together that we had been romanticizing about for weeks, even months – we saw the film The King’s Speech. Let me explain . . . My roommate is very selective on film choices and even more selective on films to see in an actual theater. Why? Have you seen how much a movie ticket is these days? I don’t blame him at all.
But this weekend, the stars aligned – he had a day off from work, I taught an early morning (yet marathon three hour) class and finished at noon, and more importantly, he got paid!
On this luminous Friday afternoon, he took us out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant which was heavenly. Then we made our way to the upscale Tyson’s Corner darkened theater.
As the film unfolded, I marveled at its story, and ultimately, its heart. Being thrashed into an authoritative role as monarch when your family ridicules your flaw (and really don’t believe you REALLY are ready) while your only confidant is your spouse made me want to cry – I felt so empathetic to the Duke of York. What a lonely existence.
But like any good confidant worth his/her salt, his wife was tireless in finding help for her husband. That help ultimately came in the form of an Australian speech therapist and former theater actor Lionel Logue. Match made in heaven, right! Not exactly.
Like all men, there is this period of adjustment and testing limits of this new “arrangement.” Now throw in social titles and the period becomes more intense and awkward. How do you address royalty when you need to set up common ground to work with a student? What can you talk about when the student’s past is such a factor in recovering and he does not want to talk about it? The dance of sarcasm, humor, wit, and honesty between student and teacher built a stable bridge of trust.
But life never stays the same for long. The status quo changes and we all are left trying to adjust to the change. This change turned the Duke into the King (with his living other brother in voluntary exile with the possibility of returning to regain the throne at any time). Also, the Nazi party was on the rise and war with Germany was eminent. Talk about pressure!
So what does the new King do? Like many of us, he FREAKS OUT by assuming that he can do the job on his own and questions Logue’s credibility and credentials as a teacher (sound familiar?). The King wants to be strong for his people who is understandable but shutting down at times of stress and pressure never helps the situation. As far as Logue’s credibility, King George VI learns that Logue did not have a formal education (or a doctorate) in his field. Instead, he had real work experience working with WWI former soldiers on their PTSD that forced them to stammer their words and lose their voice. It is safe to say that Logue was no longer questioned about his effectiveness nor his credentials after that.
Their work prepared King George VI to deliver the most important speech of his reign – his radio address informing his people that Germany was going to war with England. But more importantly, the two became and remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Logue was even appointed to the King’s advisory cabinet.
And the most amazing part of it all . . . IT REALLY HAPPENED! How extraordinary! And what did Oscar do last night? Award the film with GOLD at the Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Excellence is always awarded and if there is a compelling story attached to it, the sky is the limit.
So I am honored to have been able to see such a powerful film. As an educator, it’s even more reverential because at the heart of the film is a relationship between a teacher and his student. It highlights the importance of trust in such a relationship while also challenging the student to greatness. I believe that greatness can be achieved in every student I teach. But ultimately, it’s up to the student to WANT to be great. King George VI met his destiny with the help of his teacher. I hope I can do the same.