Bill's Blog

WHAT MRS. GILLESPIE TAUGHT ME ABOUT THE RUSSIANS

Posted on May 3rd, 2022

When I was in the fourth grade I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Gillespie.  We did not change classes in the fourth grade at Frayser Elementary School, so Mrs. Gillespie was my only teacher that year.  With the exception of recess and lunchtime, I was at my desk in Mrs. Gillespie’s classroom from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every weekday.  

Mrs. Gillespie taught me math, English, science, arts and history.  

She also taught me something about the Russians.  

On February 20, 1962, Mrs. Gillespie turned on a large black and white TV set in the front of the classroom so that I and my classmates could watch Lt. Col. John Glenn blast into orbit.  

As the Atlas rocket soared upwards, hurtling John Glenn 162 miles above the Earth, Mrs. Gillespie proudly announced, “Children, this is an historic moment.  For the first time in history, a man is orbiting the Earth.”  

At this point, Benjamin Witt, the smartest boy in the class, quickly raised his hand and promptly corrected our teacher.  “Actually, Mrs. Gillespie,” Benjamin said, “Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man to orbit the Earth.  He did it last year.”  

I will never forget what Mrs. Gillespie said in response to Benjamin.  Giving him a sharp glance, she slowly and emphatically said, “The Russians say he orbited the Earth, but nobody saw it happen.  And never forget, children … THE RUSSIANS ALWAYS LIE!”  

I have never forgotten this wonderful lesson.  To this day, I believe John Glenn was the first man to orbit the Earth.  And every time I see Vladimir Putin on my TV screen, I hear Mrs. Gillespie’s voice telling me, “He is lying!” 

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