"Yes, but what's in your bibliography?"
The question caused me to raise up in my chair. I couldn't decide if it was the most ridiculous question I'd have ever been asked or something that was going to me memorable.
It was memorable.
I was in my mid-20s and sitting in the media dining room at Dodger Stadium when the question was asked. To my left sat an elderly gentleman and fellow radio reporter. His name was Biff Elliot, about whom you might want to learn more. And the wisdom behind his question resonates with me still today.
What he was asking me -- but what I was not keen enough at the time to understand -- was this: What had I read, seen, experienced, touched, felt and otherwise learned that had helped shape who I was. And what I knew.
At least once a year I relay the aforementioned story to my students because it is one that crystallizes what I want them to do -- constantly strive to learn more about the issues that appeal to them and to the issues they need to know about.
Tuning out politics because it is messy, because the parties care more about self-interest than governing, or because "I just don't care about it" erodes the strength of our country.
Ignoring what corporations do because "they're all corrupt (expletives)" does no one any good. In fact, such an attitude allows for even greater potential for corruption; if no one is paying attention to them, then why be worried about following the law?
Suggesting that important news events taking place throughout the world can be dismissed because "I don't live there, so why should I care?" closes your mind to places that do matter to the United States and to you as an American citizen.
We all have our favorite pastimes -- sports, music, art. And we should dive into our passions with the intensity we believe they require. But we should devote the same intensity to being a civic-minded citizen.
Thanks, Biff. I'll never forget what's in my bibliography and what needs to be added to it.