When I heard Ted Kennedy had died, I immediately thought of Philip J. Schlessinger, a professor of political science I had eons ago at Los Angeles City College.
I was able to track him today via the University of Southern California Alumni News, the Winter 2001 issue. There, it said, Schlessinger had been honored as a distinuished alum by USC for a 63-year teaching career, 51 of those years at LACC.
But that's all I could find on him, although, as the Alumni News pointed out, he inspired numerous students who had or are having fine careers in politics, business and public service.
Schlessinger was also an excellent writer, and if I recall correctly, published several noteworthy books on politics. But it was a bit unfortunate for him that Arthur Schlessinger was such a prominent figure and writer of the time. It would be as if you were writing novels in the 1930 or `40s and your name happened to be Hemingway or Steinbeck. A tough go.
I attended LACC for its acting and journalism programs, both of which have produced leading jounralists and important figures in both the theater and film worlds. But I was interested in politics, too, so enrolled in one of Schlessinger's classes.
It was one of the smartest things I ever did. I found him an inspiring teacher and he wakened me to the good and evil politics could do. I'd go to his office and we'd talk; he was always generous with his time.
He was a small man with sharp, pentrating eyes. To make a point he might slap the top of his desk. He was without a doubt a liberal. But he could discuss anything.
I recall him talking about Stalin. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee, or, again, if I recall correctly, the Commitern, would take subordinates into his confidence, confessing his innermost thoughts. The subordinate thought he was due for elevation in the system, being so favored; in truth, it meant his death. Stalin couldn't tell all and leave that person alive.
This is fairly well known now, but how coud Schlessinger know such things then?
He began his teaching career in 1939 at the University of Minnesota. A colleague was Hubert Humphrey, who would become a prominent senator and then vice president. Through Humphrey and his own youthful activism, Schlessinger knew and made friends with major figures in both parties and kept in touch with them over the years.
Humphrey, especially, remained a friend. So we sometimes heard things _ or hints of _ in his classes that hadn't yet made the news.
One day, talking in his office, he mentioned Ted Kennedy. ``People overlook him, you know. They think him a bit feckless not to mention reckless. But he has an incredible energy, and you can't help but like him.
``He's gifted and, if he finds the right cause, I really do think he will make his mark. I think he will do important things before he is done,'' he said. Then, slapping his desk, ``See if I'm wrong.''
Kennedy found his cause, and as usual with Philip, not Arthur, Schlessinger, he wasn't wrong.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...