The passing of Ellis Marsalis on Wednesday was not just a sad event for the musical world but also for the field of education. Aside from being the patriarch of a famous musical family (Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason are each acclaimed in their own right), Marsalis was an active Music- Educator in New Orleans, working with students like Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, and Harry Connick, Jr. among others. I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Marsalis in the summer of 1986, while participating in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Program in New York City. Here’s a brief description of that encounter (from my forthcoming memoir Right Time, Right Places ---out in September from Adelaide Books):
Living in the shadow of St. John the Divine on West 11th Street placed me five local Number-One Train stops away from one of my best friends from Yale, Jay Fasold, which added to the fun of the summer. Excursions to Yankee Stadium, walks around the city, just hanging out in the comfortable environs of the Upper West Side, sold me on my “next stop.” One of my Seminar colleagues, Marilyn Elkins, an English teacher from New Orleans, took us downtown to hear the music of Ellis Marsalis (pater familias of the prolific musical clan) where we were invited to stay after-hours to listen to Ellis not only play but also discuss teaching music to generations of New Orleans musicians. (His son, Delfeayo --- only 21 years old at the time ---was playing drums for him. Delfeayo has since gone on to become a world-class trombonist).
It was one of those evenings you never forget (Thank you, again, Marilyn Elkins!) and what made it so significant for me was Mr. Marsalis’s clear dedication to teaching, to his students. He clearly didn’t “just” teach music but instilled a sense of agency and purpose in those he taught, something all good/great teachers aspire to.
It was ironic, then, to hear about Ellis Marsalis’s passing the same day the “President” started his daily “coronavirus briefing” with a rambling account of how the United States was stepping up it drug enforcement policies and working on completing the Southern border wall Some news channels actually stopped covering the briefing until the President actually began discussing the pandemic. What Marsalis’s passing and Trump’s performance put in high relief, of course, is the difference between genuine public service and callous self-service. While nothing this President does surprises or appalls me anymore, it is particularly difficult to countenance his egoism during a period where hundreds or thousands of Americans are dying each day.
Whereas Ellis Marsalis dedicated his life to serving his community, genuine public service, we are subjected to a Chief Executive who, clearly, is only concerned with serving his own (material and political) interests. This was made apparent in an exchange of letters between the President and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday. According to The Daily Beast:
President Trump sent a letter to Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer on Thursday accusing him of leaving New York “unprepared” for the coronavirus pandemic now crippling the state because of the “impeachment hoax.”
In an earlier letter Thursday, Schumer criticized the administration’s handling of the crisis, saying that “the existing federal leadership void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves, often in conflict and competition with each other, when trying to procure precious medical supplies and equipment.”
Schumer also noted on Twitter that he’d “called for action” as early as Jan. 26
Just before the letter was made public, Trump veered off course during the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing to complain about the damage supposedly caused by “witch hunts.” (Allison Quinn & Hunter Woodall April 2, 2020 9:42 pm)
It is clearly beyond Trump’s ability to actually take responsibility as the Chief Executive of this Nation for what is going on (He literally said that, of course). He continues to blame others, claim the Democrats are responsible, and actually says the Impeachment proceedings prevented him from taking earlier action against this virus --- when his own statements prove otherwise! I documented a few of those quotes yesterday, and if you need more evidence, simply go to the “fake news” Washington Post:
Not only that, shouldn’t a President be able to handle more than one “crisis” at a time?
Even if he was “preoccupied” with the Impeachment process, does that mean he was incapable of leading the nation in preventing the spread of the coronavirus? Of course, if you’re prime directive is about self-service you will clearly ignore any sense of public service.
During the daily coronavirus briefings we sometimes get to see a truly patriotic Public Servant standing behind Trump (when the Stable Genius allows it) in the person of Anthony Fauci. Throughout this ordeal, Fauci has been a voice of reason, a man of science, and a dedicated public servant. Trump, of course, has problems with Fauci because the Doctor’s “ratings” are competitive with the President’s, something he can’t tolerate. It was interesting to hear Trump tout a New York Times (“fake news?”) story about how his Briefing Ratings were better than a Super Bowl or a Bachelor finale --- before reverting to calling them “fake news” within minutes. What are we to believe?
Only this: a malignant narcissist is only interested in self-service and we should not, at any point, expect him to actually make decisions or take actions which are, ultimately, in the public service.
Stay safe. Socially distance. Wash your hands.