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Nothing wrong with ?I-word' - Greg Gelpi

Names, names, all kinds of names.

As a youngster, and even today, I've been called many things, some good and some not so good.

Of all the things I've been called, the "I-word" stung the most and yet instilled the most pride.

Slinging the word at me as if it was a ton of bricks, people have often intended the "I-word" to be a painful cut down, a belittling criticism.

To some, it may be a bad thing, but I wear the "I-word" as a badge of honor, a trait for others to emulate.

As if it's a horrendous crime or a stigmatic disease, I'm labeled and ostracized as with Nathaniel Hawthorne's scarlet letter. I refuse to hang my head low from the weight of my letter.

Idealistic.

That is the word I find myself accused of, and, I confess and proudly so, that I am guilty as charged.

Speaking in front of some elementary students for the school's career day, the youthful questions and comments reminded me of the virtues of idealism.

Football players, singers, models and even a paleontologist. A broad spectrum of hopes and dreams of the future. Many of the children lit up and their eyes grew wide when they spoke of their career choices.

That same "I-word" soaked in my thoughts, words and actions showed in the faces of the children.

While the world around me tried to stamp out the fire inside me, the children still burned with youthful enthusiasm, knowing, not thinking, that the world of possibilities are within their grasps.

Half joking and half serious, I often comment to friends and coworkers that people scare me, and standing in front of those classrooms I was more than just terrified.

Hope replaced the fear as I identified with the students and recognized the hope they had for their futures.

Just dismiss me as being simply idealistic, but don't discount what idealism can drive children to become.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.