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It’s a very ancient saying But a true and honest thought That if you become a teacher By your pupils you’ll be taught – From Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I

I shared these lyrics with my very first students – first graders – 30 years ago. I knew back then that I was learning at least as much from them as they were learning from me. It’s still true. I love it when one of my students – mostly teenagers now – shares something magical.

Cara Yi is the student representative on the Fremont Unified School District’s Board of Education. She’s also in my third period government and economics class. Cara is unassuming, but smart. Very smart. Ivy League, smarter-than-her-teacher smart.


One day, to start class, each of us shared a favorite quote. When it was Cara’s turn, she said she didn’t have a quote. “Instead,” she asked, “can I share a word?”

The word, ORENDA, may be the best word I’ve ever heard.

The definition: ORENDA (from the Iroquois Nation) — “The invocation of the power of human will to change the world around us. It is set up to be the opposing force to fate or destiny. If powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force you one way, ORENDA is a kind of voiced summoning of personal strength to change fate.”

I love that! It’s humanity at its best. Instead of resignation, we fight fate! Even when the forces of the universe appear to be against us, we don’t give in. A hundred years ago, diabetes was a death sentence. Starting with the discovery of insulin in the 1920’s, people with diabetes not only stay alive, they thrive. Why? ORENDA.

Think you don’t have the talent, looks or money to make it? So what?ORENDA! Can’t catch a break? The only luck you have is bad luck? ORENDA! Never seem to be in the right place at the right time? So what? ORENDA!

Dig in your heels. Push back. Work hard. ORENDA will keep you from becoming a victim of unfortunate fate.

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