I am writing this story for several
reasons. First, I have
had a remarkable journey and I want to share it with others.
Second, I want to acknowledge some of the countless
people who have inspired, encouraged and helped me along
the way. Third, the changes I have witnessed in my life time
have transformed our society and I want those of you
who come along later to be aware of their enormous effect.
When I was born in 1917, the population of the United
States was 101 million and 50% of that was rural, In 1990,
the population had soared to 250 million and only 26% of
that was rural.
When I started to school in 1923
a model-T Ford was a
rare sight; today the space shuttle flights are so commonplace
that one seldom gives them any thought. Equally
great changes have occurred in our society. I have witnessed
a radical racial upheaval and a sexual revolution.
Drug abuse, violence, crime, teenage pregnancies, and an
ever increasing divorce rate are indicative of some of our
problems. Whereas duty used to be the watchword, it has
now become rights.
The prominent role of television
in shaping public opinion
is partly responsible for these changes. What formerly were
distant happenings are now viewed in living color during
our dinner hour. Of course, changes have occurred in every
century, but the increasing velocity with which these
developed is what made their effect so staggering.
To pursue this further is beyond the scope of this prologue,
but I have listed by decade some of the most prominent
changes. These you will find in the Appendix. The
rate of change is not likely to diminish, so those of you
who will be citizens of the 21st century must cultivate a
resiliency equal to the demands of even more dramatic
This story is not an encyclopedia
of all that has happened
to me, nor is it a genealogy. Rather, I have dipped Into my
bank of memories and pulled up the major highlights of
It has not been possible to elaborate
as much as I would
like on any one episode, but I hope that what I have written
will convey a feeling for what it has been like to live in
this exciting century.
As you will discover, I reached
the pinnacle of my profession
and achieved far more than I ever thought possible.
But the real credit goes to:
1. my parents who gave me unconditional
love and laid
the foundation for the moral and spiritual values on which
I continue to build;
2. my teachers and colleagues for
their inspiration and
3. my students who constantly challenged me;
4. my church and special pastors who nurtured my spiritual development;
5. and most of all to my husband,
Bill, who gave me love in
its ultimate form--freedom to be me.
Read on and enjoy -- and may each
of you be motivated to
write your own story.
Elaine Walker Ledbetter