Despite their differing backgrounds, my father, mother, grandparents, and great grandparents have all put service over self-----
My father worked in the Senate for 20 years as a Communication Director for Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. He met many important elected officials including President Clinton (pictured below) and President Carter. Prior to his career in the Senate, he worked as a reporter for WMVC TV, an independent public TV station in Virginia. When he first started working for WMVC, he was a production assistant, meaning he performed menial chores for the whole station. He didn’t get any money out of it. Anything anyone needed, he did. He didn’t stop there, though; he wanted the chance to do interviews. In time he became the assignment editor and then one of the main anchors. Within a short time, a reporter was needed in Connecticut to cover the congressional delegation and my father was selected. He first became deputy press secretary for Senator Dodd who enacted many important pieces of legislation including FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). After becoming communications director, he talked to reporters all over the country, issuing press briefings and writing speeches.
My mother (with me)
My mother is also a federal employee. She works as a clinical social worker/psychotherapist and is the manager of the PTSD program at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She worked for many years in Washington DC as a social worker at nonprofit hospitals including Georgetown and the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Her area of expertise is treating combat Veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She also does a lot of community outreach including training local police officers how to respond to someone in crisis who has PTSD. She has published research on treating Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Prior to graduate school, she received an undergraduate degree in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and spent time freelance writing while living in Tokyo.
My maternal grandmother
My maternal grandmother managed a large non-profit community mental health care system in Virginia. In addition to ensuring that mental health care services were available throughout rural Virginia, my grandmother made it a habit of regularly employing people with developmental disabilities to work as staff in her offices. She saw the value in people often overlooked by others in society. Prior to that she worked with the Native American community in Washington State.
My maternal grandfather
My maternal grandfather worked as a social worker and university professor. After graduating from the University of Toledo with three majors (English, History, French), my grandfather went on to earn his Masters in English and teach at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He loved teaching and believed strongly that the liberal arts would give his students a door to enriching their lives. After my grandmother died, he went back to earn his MSW (Masters in Social Work) and worked for years advocating for vulnerable older adults with Adult Protective Services.
My paternal grandfather and his brothers
My paternal grandfather (pictured right) was a Navy World War 2 veteran who served aboard the aircraft carrier the USS San Jacinto in the Santo Pacific. His two brothers (pictured left and center) also served in WW2. Both were medical corpsmen (one in the army and one in the navy) because of their religious beliefs. Being Mennonites, they did not want to bear arms so served in a medical capacity.
My paternal great grandfather and his wife
Their names were David and Justina Fast. David was a teacher who taught for more than 25 years. During the Depression, there were months where he received no salary. Parents couldn’t pay their children’s tuition so they would bring gifts of food instead. David kept teaching, though. He cared more about his students’ education than his personal gain.
My maternal great grandparents
Their names were Josephine and Lawrence Gorman. Both Josephine and Lawrence’s parents emigrated from Ireland. Josephine hailed from a very poor family, while Lawrence from a rich one. Lawrence worked as an attorney for people who could not afford to pay legal fees, accepting things such as vegetables from the garden and cars for payment. He also helped women who were abused that didn’t have the funds or resources to file a divorce. Upon the sudden death of my great grandfather, my great grandmother discovered from his probate lawyer that there was no money left. She went on to work passionately as a newspaper reporter, while her children (my grandfather and his brother) picked up jobs to help earn money for the family.
In addition to influencing my personal values and aspirations, my family members have shaped my American creed. Because of my father and great grandmother, I aspire to be a journalist. Journalism brings a voice to those who are powerless in society and upholds the values of truth and transparency. My family members had the gift of education and resources. Rather than using that gift to further their own personal gain, they chose careers that made a difference in the lives of others. John F. Kennedy said, “For of those to whom much is given much is required” and my family had the additional gift of living in a free and democratic society. I will not neglect the blessing of this gift and plan to carry on this legacy as I continue my own education and build a career. One of the most enduring lessons I learned from my family is that service to others both builds empathy and dissolves our differences, bringing us closer together as both humans and Americans.
Fast, Marvin. Personal Interview. 27 Oct. 2019.
Fast, Elsbeth. Personal Interview. 27 Oct. 2019.
Fast, Lawrence Edward Gorman Jr. Personal Interview. 3 Nov. 2019.