Valkyrie And The Freedom Writers

O.k., so two stories this week. One about a Nazi and another about a teacher.

First, the Nazi.

Valkyrie is a 2008 movie based on true events during WWII. It tells the story of a group of high ranking officials in Nazi Germany who attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. This assassination attempt was the last assassination attempt on Hitler before the Allied Powers came to win WWII.

The group gets the idea to use Operation Valkyrie, Hitler’s national emergency plan, to gain control of the country and bring down Nazi Germany. In the end their attempted assassination of Hitler fails, order is restored to the Nazi Regime, and all those involved in the assassination are executed.

One of the officials involved with the assassination, Henning von Tresckow, says in the movie, “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany”.

Now about the teacher.

Erin Gruwell is a teacher best known for The Freedom Writers, a name used to refer to her students who used writing to tell their stories.

Gruwell began her teaching career at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach California, teaching low performance and “at-risk” students. Among teaching her students about the Holocaust, which the majority of her students knew nothing about, she asks each of them to keep a journal. The compilation of their journals leads to the publication of The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them, as well as the forming of the Freedom Writers Foundation.

In The Freedom Writers Diary Gruwell says, “Don’t let the actions of a few determine the way you feel about an entire group”.


Last week the largest mass shooting to date in modern U.S. history happened in Orlando, Florida.

49 people were killed and many more injured.  And now today I see headlines everywhere that the Senate has blocked 4 more gun control laws.

I admit I don’t know a lot about politics, sadly to say, nor do I know a whole lot about ISIS, and I think that if you don’t know all the facts about something, you don’t have a right to point a finger at somebody or something.

(It is o.k. to say that you cannot speak on a subject because you do not know enough about it).

What I do know about is what I’ve experienced in my life. For instance, I know that my family comes from three different cultures from around the world. I know that the host families I had when I traveled through Europe made my experience more meaningful than any 5 star hotel ever could. And I also know that the international students whom I met last semester at school were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life.

There is a difference between the individual and the whole. Terrorism does not come with a religion, ethnicity, culture, or a race, and therefore you cannot allow those who commit acts of terrorism to speak for the entire group. If you do allow those individuals to speak for the entire group you are letting them win, for only more hate will perspire in the world from that kind of mentality.

What you’ve experienced in your life is what you know best about. And what you know best about is what you should share with the world.


Housekeeping Note: Gruwell’s personal story about teaching was made into a 2007 movie called Freedom Writers and stars Hilary Swank as Gruwell.


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