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Moore writes: "It's funny, isn't it, how one minute you're just walking down the hall with your shirttail out, you're thinking about girls or a ball game or how you're on your last stick of Beaman's - and then the next hour you make a decision that will affect all the decisions you make for the rest of your life."

Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore speaks to the people of Occupy Oakland, 10/28/11. (photo: Reuters)
Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore speaks to the people of Occupy Oakland, 10/28/11. (photo: Reuters)

Twenty Names

By Michael Moore, Open Mike Blog

13 June 12


oore, YOUR SHIRTTAIL is out!"

It was the voice of Mr. Ryan, the assistant principal for discipline at my high school, and he was right on my back. Not figuratively. He was literally on it.

"Turn around!"

I did as I was told.

"You know the rules. Shirts are to be tucked in."

I tucked it in.

"Bend over."

He was carrying "The Paddle," a shortened version of a cricket bat, but with holes drilled in it to get maximum velocity.

"C’mon, this is not right," I protested. "It’s a shirt!"

"Bend over. Don’t make me tell you again."

I did as I was told. And as I was bending over, I marked the date on my mental calendar as being the last time I would ever do what I was told to do again.


I felt that intensely. The flat board of hard wood smacking against my rear end, and the two-second delay before the pain set in.


He did it again. Now it really hurt. I could already feel the heat of my skin through my pants, and I wanted to take that paddle and bash him over the head.


Now the greatest pain became the humiliation I was experiencing thanks to the growing crowd and the eyes of everyone in the cafeteria who was standing to get a look at what was happening in the hallway.

"That’ll do," the sadist said. "Don’t let me see you with your shirt out again."

And with that he walked away. He had no idea how profoundly he had just changed my life - and his. He had, in that one act of corporal punishment, created his own demise. How many times had this man struck a child in his career? A thousand? Ten thousand? Whatever the number, this would be his last.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how one minute you’re just walking down the hall with your shirttail out, you’re thinking about girls or a ball game or how you’re on your last stick of Beaman’s - and then the next hour you make a decision that will affect all the decisions you make for the rest of your life. So random, so unplanned. In fact, it puts the whole idea of making plans for your life to shame, and you realize you really are wasting your time if you’re trying to come up with a college major, or how many kids to have, or where you want to be in ten years. One day I’m thinking about law school, and the next week I’ve committed all my meager teenage resources and energy to stripping an adult of whatever power he thinks he wields with that big paddle.

I straightened upward, red-faced for all to see in the cafeteria. There were plenty of snickers and guffaws, but mostly there was that look people have when they’ve just seen something they’ve never seen before. I was known as a good student. I was known as someone who had never been given the paddle. No one ever expected to watch me being beaten by the assistant principal. I was not the type of student you would see being told to "bend over." And that was what was so entertaining about this particular beating to the gathering crowd.

It’s not like Assistant Principal for Discipline Dennis Ryan hadn’t been gunning for me in the past, or that I hadn’t done anything to deserve his wrath. I had done plenty. By the time I was halfway through my senior year, I had organized my own miniprotests against just about every edict that Ryan and the principal, Mr. Scofield, had laid down. The latest of these revolts involved convincing nine of the eighteen students in the senior Shakespeare class to walk out and quit the class.

The teacher had just handed back to me my twenty-page paper on Hamlet with a giant red "0" on top of it. That was my grade: Nothing. Zip. I stood up.

"You cannot treat me this way," I said to him politely. "And I am officially dropping out of this class." I turned to the students.

"Anybody want to join me?"

Half of them did.?The zero grade would lower my GPA to a 3.3 by the end of the year. I couldn’t have cared less.

This was not my first run-in with a teacher. The teacher who ran the student council class also flunked me. I never missed a day of that class. I made more motions and participated in more debates than perhaps anyone else in there. And that’s what bothered the teacher who was the student council advisor.

"How can you flunk me?" I confronted him.

"I’m flunking you because you create too much trouble in here," he answered smugly. "I like a nice quiet, peaceful student council. You have made this year too difficult for me."

All of this weighed on my mind on the walk home that day of my public paddling by the assistant principal. How would I exact my revenge? I had to look no further that night than the evening newspaper.

A copy of the local Flint Journal lined the box of trash I was cleaning out in our garage. I looked down and between stains of Miracle Whip and Faygo Redpop I noticed a story that reminded me about how the voting age in America had recently been lowered to eighteen. Hmmm, I thought, I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks.

I went back inside the house and, an hour later, I picked up the town weekly, the Davison Index. There, on the front page, taunting me, daring me, my future calling me: Hello, Mike. Read this!

The headline?


Huh. I’ll be able to vote for school board in a few months. Cool.


Wait a minute! If I can vote...can I run? Can I run for a seat on the Board of Education? Would this not make me one of the bosses of the principal and vice principal? Yes? Yes? Whoa.

The next day, I called the county clerk’s office, the people in charge of elections.

"Um, yeah," I stammered into the phone, not quite believing I was making this call. "Um, I was wondering that, now that eighteen-year-olds can vote, can we also run for office?"

"No. Not all offices. Which office would you like to run for?"

"School board."

"Hang on, lemme check." Within a minute he was back on the phone.

"Yes. The required age for school board candidates is eighteen."

WOW! I couldn’t believe it. But then panic set in. How could I afford such a thing? They must charge you a lot of money to put your name on the ballot.

"How much does it cost to get on the ballot?" I asked the man.

"Cost? Nothing. It’s free."

Free? This just kept getting better. Until he added the following:

"Of course you do have to get the required number of signatures on a petition in order to have your name placed on the ballot."

Damn. I knew there was a catch. There were twenty thousand residents in the Davison School District, comprising the town of Davison and the townships of Davison and Richfield. Going all over the school district to collect God knows how many signatures was going to be next to impossible. I mean, I still had lots of algebra homework to do.

"How many names do I need on these petitions?" I asked with resignation.




"Did you say twenty?"

"Yes. Twenty. You need twenty signatures on a petition that you can pick up at the board of education offices."

I could not believe that I only needed twenty names on a petition - and then, suddenly, I would be an official candidate! I mean, twenty names was nothing! I knew at least twenty stoners who would sign anything I put in front of them.?I thanked the man, and the next day I went to the superintendent’s office to pick up the petition. The secretary asked if I was picking up the petition for one of my parents.

"No," I replied. And instead of adding "Would you like to see the welts on my butt or would you rather I call Child Protective Services?" I simply said, "It’s for me."

She picked up the phone and made a call.

"Yes, I have a young man here who says he wants to run for school board. What is the age requirement these days? Uh-huh. I see. Thank you."

She hung up the phone and bit her lip.?"How old are you?" she asked.?"Seventeen," I replied.?"Oh, well, then, you can’t run. You have to be eighteen." "But I’ll be eighteen by the day of the election," I blurted out.?"One minute," she said, picking up the phone again.

"Can a seventeen-year-old run if he will be eighteen on election day? Uh-huh. I see. Yes. Thank you."

"Apparently you may run," she said, as she reached into the file cabinet and pulled out the petition. "Make sure that every signature is that of a registered voter who lives within the boundaries of the school district. If you don’t have twenty valid names, you will not be placed on the ballot."

I had the names within the hour. When the twenty signers asked me why I was running, I just said, "To fire the principal and assistant principal." That was my entire platform on Day One, and it seemed to play well, at least to twenty citizens.

"What about college?" my mother asked, perplexed when I told her I had decided to run for school board. "How can you serve on the school board and go to the University of Detroit?"

"I guess if I win, I’ll go to U of M in Flint." She liked the sound of that. If I won, I would not be leaving home. My parents were not the type to kick you out at eighteen (though that is when my sisters would leave). They did not like to see us go.

I returned the next day to the school board office and turned in my petition. Word soon spread through town that "a hippie" had qualified to be on the June ballot. I set a goal of knocking on every door in the school district. I handed voters a flyer that I had written up outlining my feelings about education and about the Davison schools specifically. I told people the administrators in the high school had to go. I’m guessing this frightened most parents.

But there were some in town who were delighted with the idea of a young person on the school board. OK, they were all under twenty-five.

And then there was the majority, the ones who noticed I had long hair. The week I began to campaign, the racist governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace, won the Michigan Democratic Presidential primary. Not a good sign for me and my chances. (This was also my very first time voting. I cast my first vote ever as a citizen for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm for president.)

The Chamber of Commerce types in town were appalled at the thought of me, a kid, winning, as were many of the Protestant pastors, the local rednecks, and the pro-war crowd (which was made up of all of the above).

The problem was, the town pooh-bahs had a really bad strategy to stop me. Six of them went down to the school board office and took out their own petitions to run against me. Six of them against me. Clearly they missed a few days of civics class when they were young. You don’t win by running the most candidates – you’ll split the vote and your opponent will win with a plurality. It was to my good fortune that they did not know the word plurality and I did. I taunted them and challenged more Republicans to go get their own petitions to see if they could beat me!

And that was when I got a taste of my own medicine. In addition to the six older, conservative adults who would oppose me, an eighteen-year-old decided to also run against me - and thus split the already very small youth/liberal vote I was going to get. The other eighteen-year-old candidate was none other than the vice president of the student council, Sharon Johnson - the girl who was one of my only two dates in high school.

"Why are you running?" I asked her, a bit peeved that she was stealing my thunder.

"I don’t know, I thought it would be neat. We could both be on the school board!" (Two seats were open on the board, and her idea was that we could both win and serve together.)

Why was she still tormenting me? First student council, then the bra, then the steamed-up windows, and now she’s going to split the youth vote and sink any slight chance I might have had to get elected.

A week before the election, I received my first anonymous hate mail. It was addressed to the two eighteen-yearolds running. It read:


Sharon Johnson
Michael F. Moore


What lame-brained fool ever talked you two brats into running for the school Board?

Moore, you talk about your vast knowledge about all affairs. Where and when did you acquire this? Why you haven’t even got brains enough to get a haircut.

You are asking the citizens of Davison to vote you into the school board, actually insulting their intelligence by so doing.

My advice to you both is this? Have your good Mother take your diapers off; get a job or go to school, acquire some of this wisdom only acquired through experience and hard knocks and then come around and run for offices. Why you haven’t even started to live as yet.

Sharon - at least you are a beautiful young lady and you deserve a better fate than to be elected to a school board which is really a thankless job.

One who knows what he is talking about.


Yes, Sharon, you are a beautiful young lady, unlike that long-haired lug. As hate mail goes, this was one of the nicer ones I would ever receive.

On the morning of election day I got up, ate my Cocoa Krispies, and went to school. There were still five days left before graduation, and I had finals to take. The yearbooks were handed out and they contained the results of another election: the senior class had voted me "Class Comic."

When school recessed at 1:30 p.m., I went and voted for me. I had focused my entire campaign on getting every eighteento twenty-five-year-old out to vote. There were nearly two hundred eligible voters just in my senior class. I had spent less than a hundred dollars on the campaign. We had spray-painted yard signs with stencils in my parents’ basement. There were no ads, only the one-page flyer I handed out going door to door.

There was a big turnout at the polls, and when they closed at 8:00 p.m., the counting of the paper ballots began. Less than two hours later, the results were announced.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the district’s assistant superintendent announced, "we have the results. In first place... Michael Moore."

I was shocked. The group of hippie students who had gathered to watch the votes being counted went crazy with delight. A reporter from a local station asked me how I felt about beating seven "adults."

"Well," I said. "I’m an adult, too. And I feel great."

"Well, congratulations," the reporter said, "you’re the youngest person ever elected to public office in the State of Michigan."

"Is that true?"

"Yes, it is. You beat the previous record by three years."

Across the gymnasium where the votes had been counted, I could see the disappointed looks on the faces of the realtors, the insurance salesmen, the country club wives. The following day, a reporter from Detroit called to tell me I was the youngest elected official in the entire country (there was no one under the age of eighteen who held public office). Did I have a comment about that?


What else was I gonna say? I was too deep in my own whirlwind about what had just happened to my life. Now I was going to be one of the seven people in charge of the school district, and the boss of both the principal and, most important, the assistant principal, Ryan. I was now in a position to take that fucking bat out of his hand.

The next morning, I went to school as I had for the previous twelve years. Walking down the hall on my way to Mr. Hardy’s creative writing class, I saw Assistant Principal Dennis Ryan coming toward me. Funny, there was nothing in his hand.

"Good day, Mr. Moore."

Mr. Moore? That was a first. But hey, after all, how else would you address your new boss? Yet I was still a student under him. Weird. He kept walking and so did I.

It became a week of high fives and black power handshakes (I know, I know - this was Davison) among the students, many of them relishing what havoc I could wreak. I was given a number of suggestions from my constituents: make the jocks take real classes; put a cigarette machine in the cafeteria; institute the "four-hour school day"; drop the white milk and have only chocolate; find out what’s in the "Thursday Surprise" at lunch and kill the person who makes it.

Five nights later on June 17, 1972 (non sequitur alert: at the same time, burglars five hundred miles away were breaking into a place called the Watergate), I lined up inside Davison High School with my nearly four hundred fellow graduates, all of us in our maroon-and-gold caps and gowns. Dress code rules were still in effect, but a number of students chose to secretly wear no pants or skirts. They did make sure that the area at the top of the gown had the requisite blouse and shirt and tie, because that could be seen by the authorities. Flashing the nether regions would take place later on the football field at the end of the ceremonies. Water balloons were also well hidden.

Mr. Ryan walked down the line five minutes before the ceremony inspecting each of the students, mostly to make sure that there were no projectile devices in people’s hands and to be certain that every boy was wearing a tie.

And it was then that Ryan came upon Billy Spitz. Billy was a kid from a family of simple means. His idea of a tie was what was called a "bolo tie" - two long strings hanging from a knot or a clamp at the neck. For many who came from the South to work in the factories of Flint, putting on a bolo tie was called "dressing up." It was what you wore to a dance or to church. It was a tie.

Not to Ryan.

"Step out of line!" he barked at Billy. "What is this?" he continued, as he pulled the bolo tie out from under Billy’s gown.

"It’s my tie, sir," Billy responded sheepishly.

"This is not a tie!" Ryan retorted for all to hear. "You’re outta here. Go on. Git! You’re not graduating."

"But, Mr. Ryan - "

"Did you hear me?" Ryan snapped, as he grabbed him and physically pulled him away from the rest of us, showing him the door. It sent a shock wave through the line of graduates. Even in the final minute of high school, we had to witness one last act of cruelty.

And not one of us said anything. Not the tough guy in back of Billy, not the Christian girl in front of him. And not me. Even though I was now officially one of the seven in charge of the schools, I remained silent. Maybe I was just too stunned to speak. Maybe I didn’t want to cause trouble before we got out to the football field, as I was planning to cause a heap of it out there (I had been chosen by the students to give the class speech). Maybe I was still cowed by Mr. Ryan and it would take more than an election for me to stand up to him. Maybe I was just happy it wasn’t me. I really didn’t know Billy, and so, like the other four hundred, I minded my own business.

When it was my time to speak on the graduation stage, I got through the only three sentences I had written. I had seven pages from a yellow legal pad rolled up in my hands to make it look like I had prepared a typical graduation speech. In fact, I had something else on my mind that I was going to say.

I had learned that one of our classmates, Gene Ford, was not to receive the gold honor cords of the National Honor Society because, due to a serious disability, he had to be mostly home-schooled. Even though his grades were high, no one made any provisions for counting his home grades, which would have definitely qualified him for the Honor Society.

Less than a minute into my speech, I came to an abrupt halt and told the crowd that the student sitting in the wheelchair in the front row was denied his honor cords because he wasn’t "normal" like the rest of us. What if, I suggested, we were the abnormal ones? Some of us seniors, I pointed out, had chosen not to wear our honor cords because we did not want to separate ourselves from those who, for whatever reason, didn’t have the same grades we had. I went into an extemporaneous rant about the oppressive nature of being in school and not having rights or a say in your own education. I then said I’d like to present my honor cords to Gene.

And so I left the stage and did just that. And the school board members who were present? Well, they just got a coming attractions trailer to the movie they were about to star in with me for the next four years.

* * *

The following day the phone rang and my mother said it was Billy Spitz’s mom. I took the phone. She was fighting back tears.

"My husband and I and Billy’s grandmother were all sitting in the stands waiting for Billy to walk across the stage, waiting for his name to be called. They called the entire class and never called Billy’s name. We couldn’t see him sitting with the rest of you. We didn’t understand. We were confused. And then we got worried. Where was he? We got up and looked everywhere for him. We went out to the parking lot and to our car. And that’s where we found him."

She began to cry.

"There, in the backseat, was Billy, all curled up in a ball, and crying. He told us what Mr. Ryan had done.

"We can’t believe this happened. He was wearing a tie! Why did this happen?"

"I don’t know, Mrs. Spitz," I said quietly.

"Were you there?" she asked me.?


"Did you see Mr. Ryan do this?"


"And you did nothing?"

"I was still a student." And a coward.

"You were also a school board member! Isn’t there anyhing you can do about this?"

Of course, there was nothing I could do. They weren’t going to hold graduation over to correct this injustice. I had a chance, maybe, to do something about it the night before. But I didn’t. I would never forget this small but powerful moment of my silence and looking the other way. I promised her I would not let this rest and that, as I said when I ran for election, I would work toward Mr. Ryan’s removal.

Two days later I was told to go to the home of the school board secretary and be sworn in. I rode my bicycle over to her house in my bare feet and was sworn in without my shoes on. She said, "Where are your shoes?"

"I’m not wearing any," I said. She just glared at my feet.

I raised my right hand, and when it came time to say the words about "defending the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic," I added, "especially domestic." She looked at me and rolled her eyes. She had taught my mother in high school. "She was maybe the worst teacher I had," my mother told me later. Mom also told me I should have worn some shoes.

*  *  *

The honeymoon period in my first year on the board of education was longer than any of us had expected. Most of the motions I made to improve the schools - including establishing some student rights - were passed. The board listened to what I had to say about how the high school was being run, and how the assistant principal might do better being on the police force (in Chile). I said that the principal was not a forward thinker; he stifled dissent and created a climate where new ideas were not encouraged. In my first year I became a conduit to the board for students, teachers, and parents so that their voices could be heard.

One Monday night about eight months into my term, the superintendent presented "letters of resignation" from the high school principal - and Assistant Principal for Discipline, Dennis Ryan. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that, just ten months after I was beaten with a high-velocity wooden board, the mission I went on by running for the school board had actually been accomplished. It caught me by surprise, as I did not think they were really going to do anything about this problem. True, they were not going to publicly fire them. They let them resign, to save face. Saving face was not yet something I was interested in, as I was not yet old enough to have the necessary compassion and mercy for two men who were just in the wrong job - and had a right to be treated with dignity and respect, even if one of them had not accorded the same to me and Billy Spitz and others. So to twist the knife in deeper, I asked the superintendent at the public meeting if the principal and assistant principal had made this decision on their own or did he, the superintendent, ask for these letters? He nodded his head quietly and said simply, "The latter."

The next day, the students in the high school couldn’t believe that one of their own actually got to say "You’re fired!" to the principal and assistant principal. We started thinking - what else can we do?

That was a dangerous thought. your social media marketing partner


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+76 # Peacedragon 2012-06-13 12:52
And since then you have continued to speak truth to power. Go Mike!
+61 # tanis 2012-06-13 12:58
Forward thinking begins at home.
+72 # cassandrapt 2012-06-13 13:04
Great story Michael!! Thank you. . .
+87 # newsmom 2012-06-13 13:16
if every one of who has ever stood by and watched as some sort of injustice was perpetrated on a fellow human being were to stand up instead for what we believe the "occupy" movement would be stronger and maybe, just maybe, that miserable excuse for a human being in wisconsin wouldn't still be in office. we are all change agents. the question is whether we will try to change things for the better. no matter what one might think of michael moore, that was a darned gutsy thing for an 18-year-old to do. and it was a darned cruel thing for a principal to do to an impoverished high school graduate. so what are moore's critics doing to effect change?
+33 # mdhome 2012-06-13 15:21
"So what are moore's critics doing to effect change?" NOTHING!
+24 # soularddave 2012-06-13 17:38
Michael Moore has been demonized and.vilified by the right wing in the corporate media by lies and inuendo. He exoises their lies and demonstrates how horri le tbey really are for America, and indeed, thr world.

I trust his wisdom and judgment as to his best course of action at any given moin.ment. Perhaps he shouldn't tie himself to a specific campaign and elective office at this time. Rather, we should look to him for revelations and guidance rather than to take the ball himself and run with it. Do you think for a moment that he wouldn't wholeheartedly support the right candidate?
+14 # WestWinds 2012-06-13 19:59
People don't know how to proceed. Look at Wish-Con-Sin. They did everything they could and look at the results. This isn't easy, you know. It's going to take more well and properly informed people to turn the tides. Michael is right to try and interest the youth of this country; they are the ones who are inheriting the debt, death and destruction to have to clean up or die in the midst of such an apocalyptic mess.
+10 # noitall 2012-06-13 21:34
People who demonstrate their disgust of the system and politics of today by not voting, cut their nose off to spite their face. The greatest effort in politics is exerted in controling one's emotions; stirring up emotions is the greatest weapon used in politics = Fox Noise. Progress in politics is made in baby steps. That is why we could learn from Native Americans and do the "good work" for our Seventh Generation. At least then, we can see our progress and at the same time, judge our leaders.
+16 # WestWinds 2012-06-13 19:55
I believe Scott Walker got the support he did because of messaging that began decades ago. The people who voted for Walker think they are doing it to better things... how can that be given all of the evidence to the contrary. When we correctly answer such questions, we'll have a better chance to change the dialog. I have a Tbag friend and she truly believes she is doing this to please God. One of the culprits, it would seem, are the churches which have been converted to propaganda machines. The current pope is a former Nazi... hello, and he was put at the head of a short list of Italian candidates by a bag full of money delivered to Rome by Condoleeza Rice from George W. Bush when in office. When will the public speak out against this unholy alliance?
+2 # dovelane1 2012-06-15 02:47
I would tell your T'bag friend to prove that what she is doing is pleasing God. If God is unknowable, there is no way she can prove it.

There is a difference between an opinion and a fact. If she can't prove her belief, then what she is acting upon is an opinion or an assumption, not a fact.

As soon as people assume something is a fact, they act toward it as if it WERE a fact. Pointing out to them the difference between a fact and an opinion or an assumption, may be the first step in getting them to really think about what they are doing.

Also, where did you find the information about Condi Rice and the pope?
+25 # Michael_K 2012-06-13 13:17
Michigan will experience the pain of karma.. rest assured of it. When the pendulum swings, it always swings too far.
+37 # mrkuffler 2012-06-13 13:26
I lived through similar situations in Michigan in Bloomfield Hills Schools. The only reason I wasn't paddled repeatedly was because my Dad was 6'1 and told the Principal and Asst. Sadist of my school that he would do far worse than paddle them if they touched his kid. I wish I could say the education system changed now that I have kids. It has only very little. One question for Michael - should these folks have been protected by a union and tenure, or should they have never been educators in the first place?
+38 # Merschrod 2012-06-13 13:31
Yes, we have to egg Michael onward into the disaster that Michigan has become.
Michael for Gov. on the rabble party - He needs a plan though to make the school taxes and funding go further toward the teachers and away from the administrative burden. That is where the deadwood is.

Make kindle of it Michael, make kindle of it.
+58 # dovelane1 2012-06-13 13:36
Nop matter how big and famous Mr. Moore is, I think he understands that he can not do it all by himself. He had the support of the people who voted for him when he ran for the school board.

There is, in psychoogy a concept called "learned helplessness," where people learn they have no power to do much of anything to make their lives, and the lies of others better. I have run into this problem everywhere I've been. I suffered from it myself.

To further the problem, I was bullied from 5th grade until the end of high school. One of the things that brought about change was taking a class in assertiveness in college. I have yet to see or hear of a class in assertiveness offered in high school.

From the sounds of it, Mr. Moore didn't need that class. Even so, he had the support of others in trying to bring about changes in the system. No man is an island...
-41 # larksong 2012-06-13 13:38
While I respect the humanitarian work
that Michael Moore has done, I must agree
with Holyone.
Michael made himself visible in support
of the Wisconsin recall and Occupy, while
never doing anything AT ALL to support
the recall effort in his home state of
Michigan, where he resides. There was
never any support for all the people
collecting signatures for months out in
90 degree heat and all kinds of weather,
nothing at all on his website or any kind
of public support, and he could have
done much to get those needed signatures.
Meanwhile, the Dick was busy decimating
Michigan with his cronies, on a daily
basis, while sticking it seniors,the
poor, women, educators and just about
everyone in between who are not wealthy
corporate shills.
So Michael, where have you been?? As
Holyone points out, Michigan is burning,
why did you not help us rid ourselves
of this utterly insane inhumane governor?? What were you threatened with
that you turned your back on Michigan???
+84 # Josippie 2012-06-13 13:39
Holyone, I share your deep frustration as I watch my country falling apart, but I don't feel it's fair for anyone to lay so much responsibility on Michael. I was inspired by Michael's not-so-subtle message: that WE are the ones we've been waiting for, no matter how young, or inexperienced, if we believe in something. Waiting for super-heroes is useless. Make a difference, no matter how small.
+37 # tutu 2012-06-13 14:31
we all must learn to let go our learned helplessness--a n aspect of ptsd which moore's generation (like me) suffers from unanimously.
we have been bullied for way too long. it is time to assert ourselves--and take the bullies down.
+14 # James Marcus 2012-06-13 15:01
We are making a Difference ... by Being, and caring, and therefore 'Doing our Lives' differently.
We are being heard;
and, The Powers That Be, The 'Mr Ryan's, et al", of Our World, with their Printing Presses Rolling, and Paddles-a-Plent y.... (in case anyone 'peeps or squeals')
....... will simply .....'quietly resign'??
-11 # larksong 2012-06-13 15:15
I think you missed the point, which is
not to make anyone a super hero. The point is that Michael has an enormous
public platform, between website and
public appearances. Why would that platform be used for other states and
not for Michigan?? Why would that platform NOT be used to call out the
Governor of this unfolding travesty in
his home state?? These are very valid
and obvious questions. Something in this
scenario just does not feel right.
+34 # fredboy 2012-06-13 15:16
I retired three years early from higher (if you can believe that) ed after my dean ordered me to use a "forced curve" grading system and ditch the proven, honest, just, provable, and motivational grading system I'd shared for 25 years. I was to prejudge entire classes before I met them, splitting the grades on a fictional curve. Amazingly, while many faculty griped about the injustice of it, I was the only one to speak up. Really glad I left the creep show. It's now caught up with the assholes, as hundreds of graduates have pledged to never give a penny to the sty.
-68 # dick 2012-06-13 15:20
MM almost always makes it About HIM.
+31 # paulrevere 2012-06-13 17:02
We each can only speak from our experiences, if we choose to speak truth.
+28 # soularddave 2012-06-13 17:59
The story, as noted, is from a book of autobiographica l sketches. Who is an autobiography suppoosed to be about?

Read and heed, or argue a point.
+13 # noitall 2012-06-13 21:46
It worked for Oprah. Point is, we all have the same capability...if we exercise it. No good deed goes unpunished and the burden must be shared. MM is human, as is Oprah and therefore not perfect in the eyes of everyone. In spite of this, sometimes we do wonderful things...if we try. Have YOU tried lately? Ich bin ein activist.
+3 # Mermaid19 2012-06-13 15:22
Michael Moore is not the all to end all. He is a celebrity and it is great that he supports causes.
In lieu of expecting celebrities or anyone to speak for us what I think is most important is that we stop voting for the lesser of two evils. Obama in some peoples mind is no longer the President of change and we need change. FYI I believe that Romney will be our next Pres.

For those who stay home and not vote as a way of protesting what you are really doing is saying you do not care. It is important we begin to give other candidates some exposure. Check out
Dr. Jill Stein who is running for President on the Green Party Ticket. She is amazing.

Remember when you do not vote you are saying YOU DO NOT CARE, AS Americans we need to begin to care and voting is one way we demonstrate that.
0 # dovelane1 2012-06-15 03:01
Caring is scary, as it makes many people feel vulnerable. Those who have not learned how to deal with their vulnerability, will have difficulty caring, or doing much of anything assertive. Fear does that to people.

It was written in "The Little Prince" that we cannot teach others how to care. They have to learn, and I believe the best, and perhaps, only way for others to learn is to lead by example. I think Mr. Moore has done that. How much more will we ask of people who are, seemingly, doing all they can?

At the same time, I am also curious why he hasn't used his prestige and notoriety to speak out more in Mi.

I live in Minnesota, and I have to admit, I am only now finding out how bad things are in Michigan. It breaks my heart. As Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn worote, "If I had a rocket launcher, some s.o.b. would die..." I guss it's a good thing I'm mostly a pacifist.
+28 # Midwestgeezer 2012-06-13 15:24
I'm a member of the Class of '53 at good ol' LHS here is Wisconsin Rapids. Our principal, Aaron R. had been an accomplished amateur boxer and when he would have a disciplinary disagreement with a male student in his earlier years, he would sometimes "invite" the student down to the gym to put on the gloves. Most, thinking better of it would accede th Aaron's suggestions for good behavior. Not Marv Steinke, class of about 1941, USN, WW II. Marv elected to take Mr. R. up on his challenge and they put on the gloves. The story goes that Marv beat the shit out of him.

I had quit school in my junior year to join the Navy. While there, I completed the necessary studies and exams to qualify for a diploma but Mister R. was having none of it, saying: "Dave, the records show that you would not have earned a diploma if you'd have stayed here for six years!" I told him to shove it and went on to a successful career with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
+9 # doneasley 2012-06-14 00:20
Great story, Midwestgeezer. Individuals choose to step in and shape our lives in positive and negative ways - I'd say negative for most of us. Michael's story and yours were school stories, but for most of us it's the upper echelon in the workplace who determine our fates.

I'm from OH where I retired after working for a company for 30 years, and I had my ups and downs with management. But the story that's etched into my memory involved our dep't secretary.

The various groups had Christmas parties each year at a lodge on the grounds. On one occasion, at a party I didn't attend, a drunken group manager actually climbed to a point where he could look over a partition between the men's and women's restrooms. Our dep't sec'y was in one of the stalls, looked up, saw him, screamed, and bolted out of the restroom. Of course, he did too and passed her on the way out. No one else saw what happened. When she told her story it was her word against his. Everything was handled behind closed doors by upper management, and an agreement was made that, if she didn't bring charges, she would not have to work under him as long as she worked at the company. When others heard of the arrangement, they tried to get her to bring charges against the creep.

Bottom line: We had a reorganization a year or so later and she ended up reporting directly to this bastard. When she objected, she was told they'd have to LET HER GO if she didn't take the position!
+21 # panhead49 2012-06-13 15:34
I (and my mom) were quite familiar with the P & VP at my high school also. Only difference was we had to head over the wood shop and make the paddle they were going to abuse us with. And I'm still a pain in the arse even tho at much slower pace. Keep givin' them hell Mr. Moore!
+20 # Skeptical1247 2012-06-13 15:43
TO Lolane and Billsy. Good for both of you. You got it completely, both Michael's gift and his mea culpa, but MOSTLY, you got the example he set. You don't have to be perfect, or even brilliant and accomplished to make a difference in your corner of the world. @ Josippie, you nailed it. The thing that we ALL need to get, in order to make a difference: "WE are the ones we've been waiting for, no matter how young, or inexperienced, if we believe in something. Waiting for super-heroes is useless. Make a difference, no matter how small." @Holyone, you missed the point entirely. Quit whining for a Daddy to save your ass. Mr Moore's "corner of the world" is a lot bigger than Flint, or Michigan, for that matter, and more power to him, for creating a positive example for as many people as he possibly can.
+22 # Tigre1 2012-06-13 17:10
It may be that we need to expand several ways of thinking. One: our greatest lawyer in our history did NOT learn in college...Abe Lincoln had an apprenticeship. ..maybe we need more merit exams for various professions, and when you PASS that you are accredited...wh y not?

And we need to open OUR minds. In a democracy the closest elected office
to where you are RIGHT NOW is the local school board. Mike Moore isn't talkinga bouthimself alone>>>he's saying, stand up for your RIGHTS! Marley was right, and so were our forefathers: these are the times that try our souls, the slavery class and party of GOTP must be backded down and put back in their holes under rocks...and only WE the PEOPLE can do that.

Run for school board...get acquainted with what government is really about. Don't be ashamed to get together with neighbors to solve problems, and avoid the ideologues and the guys who just want to foment trouble, like the TP.

Get're an AMERICAN.
+19 # soularddave 2012-06-13 18:13
You're soooo right! In fact, there are a lot of school boards across the USA that have been packed with right-wing and religious extremists who are using their positions to turn kids into little clones of themselves. For these ideologists, science, reality, and indeed, good sense, itself, are to be ignored. Good citizens need to stand up and take control of their lives.
+23 # Kathymoi 2012-06-13 17:26
Bravo, Michaael Moore. May this article inspire 100's of occupiers to run for offices. I'm ready to vote for an unsullied heart and mind.
+3 # 22dragon 2012-06-13 17:27
mermaid19 a refusal to vote in a fixed-system (masquerading as a two-party system) does not mean you do not care. A vote for neither-of-the- above is a conscientious is a vote for one with no chance of being elected because s/he had been given no voice at the cable- table. When I hear at least a faint echo of THE LITTLE SCOUT within me in some future presidential debate (with more than two-stooges in it) I will think about casting a hopeful ballot.
+8 # carolsj 2012-06-13 21:03
Rather than not vote at all, vote for a third party candidate. That's a more effective protest against the 2 parties.
+21 # genierae 2012-06-13 17:28
Michael Moore has spent his entire life making waves, trying to right the wrongs that he sees, and he has been vilified, demonized, and persecuted. He has been physically attacked, his life threatened, and had to hire a bodyguard. Much of the time he is ridiculed and treated with contempt by rich elites who are horrified by his truth-telling. Why does he keep on going? Because he loves this country, and he can't bear to see what's being done to it. He is a very wise, very honest man, and those who don't understand him need to be quiet.
+18 # jcadams 2012-06-13 17:53
This was a heartwarming story. And a metaphor for how we can each find a away to stand up to the current tyranny being foisted on us by a corrupt Supreme Court with the Citizens United decision. And the GOP’s continued obstruction for any measures that might improve the U.S. economy --- so as to improve their chances in the November election.
+20 # IndigoE 2012-06-13 18:04
Holyone's first comment reflects an attitude as absurd as his/her "handle". I, for one, "got it". This article is a wake up call for those of us who have had our buts kicked in so many ways by Wall Street bankers, lying politicians, corporations, etc etc. When is too much enough? When do we, like Michael Moore, look around and figure out what each of us can do to stop the madness. All communities, the very earth... everything hangs in the balance.
+12 # Marsha 2012-06-13 18:49
I'm simply glad to know about this part of who he is, his success and his failure.
+21 # Doc Mary 2012-06-13 19:31
I'd like to thank Mr. Moore for pointing out that the disabled member of his class deserved to be on the honor role, too. I have the hidden disease Myalgic Encephalomyelit is, characterized by an exacerbation of symptoms from a day to two weeks after even mild exertion. I have been in studies, know I have immune defects and viruses, including two which were causing encephalitis and CNS disruption, and I do well on immune meds and antivirals. But few have the chance to get those tests and treatment - and the treatment I'm on can't be given if you are 18.

We have teenagers who are terribly sick. They often spend a lot of time in bed in pain, unable to read because of the encephalitic part. Worse, they're stuck with the CDC's stupid name for my disease - chronic fatigue syndrome. School boards throw away their doctors' letters and prosecute the family for aiding truancy, or simply take the kids away and put them in foster homes, which is cruel. They all think they can diagnose "Muncharusen's Syndrome by Proxy" (a theoretical psychiatric condition used in the movie The Sixth Sense as a plot device). We have students who have managed to get the work done despite horrific symptoms - pain, constant dizziness, exhaustion - and some who deserved honor role status but were denied it, like the young man you highlighted. We know how much that must have meant to that young man. Let me assure you little has changed since then. Thank you for an act of personal kindness.
+8 # hillwright 2012-06-13 20:10
Hey - lay off for a moment. This was written and published a few years back. It wasn't written about this week's, or this month's news - I don't know why it appeared today. Maybe Michael felt the message was ageless and needed to be repeated. Especially right now?
+7 # Sweet Pea 2012-06-13 20:45
Did Denny Ryan end up working for Chief Boyce and the police Dept?
+5 # KidsRpeople2 2012-06-14 08:21
Students K-12 are paddled/injured by school teachers, coaches and administrators legally everyday in US Schools in 19 States known as School Corporal Punishment with no safety standards to protect students from excessive force injuries! See shocking injuries to students YouTube video Trailer for Documentary "The Board of Education" by Jared Abrams at School employees are Immune from criminal/civil charges leaving no legal remedy! Some State Laws, including Florida and Tennessee, do Not require parental consent or notification to inflict Pain as Punishment in school, yet it is Illegal in Schools in Nashville (yet 2/3 of TN Students attend Paddling Schools) and 31 U.S. States!

Watch short YouTube Video of Montel Williams, 2007 Supreme Court of The United States complicit in child abuse/beatings of minor schoolchildren no legal remedy

School Spanking, known as Corporal Punishment, is discriminatoril y applied to boys, minority, disabled and low-income students.

Spanking can be sexual abuse

U.S. Organizations Opposed to Corporal Punishment in Schools

Sign Petition to End School Corporal Punishment at
+5 # KidsRpeople2 2012-06-14 08:22
What do your tax dollars, Prostitution and Pornography have in common? Only three professions in US in which hitting someone on the buttocks in order to cause pain is part of standard practice Prostitution Pornorgraphy School Teaching. Pornographers and prostitutes who engage in sado-masochisti c activities, do so exclusively with informed consenting adults. As of 2012 buttocks-beatin g has been banned in public school systems of 31 states

Current headlines report "Hazing death prompts no confidence vote for Florida A&M president", "High School Hazing Letter Warns of Beatings & Sex Abuse Kids Will Face" and "New York Students Charged for Paddling Middle Schoolers"

What's the difference between Hazing and School Paddling? As logic dictates, when a person is hit with a wooden board, severe injuries are to be expected. When students paddle and injure other students under the guise of hazing they face felony assault charges, yet when school teachers, coaches and administrators paddle and injure students under the guise of discipline they are immune from criminal/civil action due to "Teacher Immunity Laws" leaving no legal remedy for families of injured students.
+6 # humanmancalvin 2012-06-14 10:26
Amazing how a truly poor educator can turn a young students life around. This sadistic Vice-Principal made it his duty to insult me at least once a day, demeaning me in front of the entire school. It was the early 60's and I began rebelling with gusto. This ignorant man turned me off from institutional education for many a year, self education turned into my way of life. As many wonderful teachers that help young people find out who they are & teach the value of education, just one bad teacher can alter the course of a child's life. Thank you Mike for writing this powerful essay & please continue to fight the good fight as I plan to do in my own limited way.
+2 # rainbowsally 2012-06-15 06:22
What I get from this article is a sense of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and how on something of an "inspired" fluke, Moore became even more of what he already was.

Here's the main point: Did Michael really choose the path he's on or did it choose him.

I'd like to toss this concept out while I'm at it.

We should be asking the pro-war, turned pro-trickle-dow n-austerity geniuses if they REALLY think the enemy won WWII. (FDR) And if not, why do they act like it.

Not much time left (if any) to get on the ball with a good counter offense, people.
+2 # wendellwilliams 2012-06-15 15:06
Unfortunantely, most people do not realize how easy it is to be involved in politics.

Wendell Williams
+1 # Dr. OH 2012-06-16 08:17
Dear Commenters-- while I did not keep count, the number of people who described their own political activity was so small that the CRITICS of Mr. Moore should pause for a moment. And, if folks think that voting is "significant political activity" then you should review or learn for the first time that voting, while not trvial, cannot be a person's badge of being involved in changing those problems that a person identifies as needing change. Find out what is available locally, in terms of organizations that are working for changes. If "nothing exists" then put on your thinking caps, make some phone calls, and then YOU can help start SOMETING. It is difficult in the U.S. to make "progressive changes, but the "Occupy Movement" has morphed into ""Occupy Everything" and their are more opportunties today. I think there are more opportunites today, at least locallly, than anytime since the 1960's. Mr. Moore MIGHT BEof some assistance, but it is not very insightful to imply that he is the ONLY SAVIOR. You are aprt of the solution. Yes it is hard to start from scratch, but you MUST TRY. As a 60 year old high school teacher, I have created an ad hoc students group in a very depressed town that has focused on issues within our school and within the town. The students have never felt better about themselves and now have a different sense of purpose for a part of their lives. And our organization has won small victories, but our agenda continues to grow. So please, start something.
+2 # futhark 2012-06-16 10:25
It would be just about impossible for any young people today to imagine what it was like growing up in the "good old days" of the 1950s and 1960s with the absolutely rigid expectations and rules of conformity. 15 years ago I taught at a school where the principal's major discipline issue was objecting to students wearing their hats in class. Yes, I agreed with his that it was rude and they should be told so, but making a major discipline issue out of this molehill just decreased student respect for school authority in issues that really did matter.

1950s America was all about the world of Ozzie and Harriet and The Donna Reed Show. No one I knew fit these stereotypes of middle class America and were thus made to feel inferior and unworthy for failing to meet acceptable social standards.

Unreasonable and arbitrary authoritarianis m is the inevitable parent of an anti-authoritar ian reaction. School authorities who suspended teens for having hair that was too long or, in one case I personally witnessed, a girl wearing a "granny dress" that was TOO LONG were the cause of the "hippie revolution".

I always started my high school science classes with an invitation for students to question, comment, or complain on any issue they felt worthy of discussion. Student input is critical and needs to be invited.

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