Letter from the Director

Celebrating the
power of the word

Words, carefully chosen and placed in the right order, convey who we are and what we value. It is no surprise that literature, poetry, and the study of languages are considered essential humanities studies. We cannot understand ourselves or each other — and we cannot understand our history, theology, philosophy or culture — when our words are misunderstood or not clearly stated. At the core of all we are as humans is the word.

In this edition of FORUM, we celebrate well-chosen words, including our annual review of the Florida Book Award winners.

These writers, Florida treasures all, demonstrate every day the wisdom so aptly expressed by the late writer-philosopher Susan Sontag. When asked to distill her most essential advice on the craft of writing, Sontag responded: “Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”

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We also highlight Jeff Klinkenberg, the Florida Humanities Council’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing recipient. “Nobody writes about the real Florida with as much insight and affection as Jeff Klinkenberg,” writes Carl Hiaasen, another of Florida’s great authors. If the humanities are the stories of our human experiences, then Jeff is our state’s master storyteller.

And we talk to University of Florida professor and author, Jack Davis, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for his environmental history, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea. Both Davis and Klinkenberg are on the Council’s roster of speakers. Please contact us if you wish to schedule a presentation by these amazing authors.

The Florida Book Awards banquets are always inspiring, and the latest one was no exception. In fact, it sparked an idea you will see in these pages:

Write us at jlevine@flahum.org or send a video explaining how an English teacher changed your life.

Upon receiving his Florida Book Award, D. Bruce Means, a noted scientist now in his 70s, thanked his high school English teacher for introducing him to Shakespeare and for teaching him the discipline required to write well.

More than half a century later, the author still felt the influence of that teacher and thought it appropriate to recognize him.

I suspect most of us experienced a special English teacher. I had two in ninth grade; Miss Blessing taught me to diagram sentences and Miss Hart taught the elements of speech-giving (along with being a strict grammarian). How I communicate today is largely because of what they taught. Neither is still alive, but I thank them and honor their memory.

So here’s our idea:

Let’s start a movement today to thank our favorite English teachers. You’ll see D. Bruce Means’ piece as our first “A Teacher to Remember” essay. Write us at jlevine@flahum.org or send a video explaining how an English teacher changed your life. We’d love to compile and share them. This would be an appropriate tribute to those who have kept those carefully chosen words alive.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of FORUM magazine.

Steve Seibert, Executive Director

Steve Seibert
Executive Director
Florida Humanities Council
727-873-2007
sseibert@flahum.org

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