Leon Russell’s High School Piano

A most unexpected event in my ministry occurred when I was asked to speak in the middle of a 2019 Leon Russell tribute concert where some of the great band members and recording artists from his earliest days performed together. I was asked to lead the dedication ceremony of the Will Rogers High School’s original 1938 Baldwin piano, refurbished by privately raised money from the high school’s community foundation. I am an enthusiastic supporter of public education, and a founding director of the WRHS Community Foundation. 

In my remarks that day I spoke of the possibilities of our public schools:

The guiding promise of public education is for every student, from any life circumstance, to learn—to learn from the wisdom of the ages and develop the full-rounded skills needed to build a better future for themselves and our world. We are still striving to live up to that ideal. Never underestimate the power of a student’s dream, or the reach of an inspired and fully-funded teacher. While many graduates of this school are worthy of this kind of honor, Claude Russell Bridges—Leon Russell, Class of ‘59—was chosen as an example of the power of educational dreams. As a boy exploring the fine arts, he discovered his passion. Overcoming his lifelong challenge of a form of cerebral palsy, and gaining world-wide recognition for his talents, Leon Russell entertained his classmates daily during the lunch hour on this very piano on this very stage… May this instrument be used in all its many ways to fan the flames of creativity; May it ignite inspiration, insight, and passion; May it be a symbol of self-discipline, perseverance and the reward of hard work; and, May it transform generations of students as they discover their future.

Christians bring salt and light into our schools as active parents and volunteers. Taking state education funds out of the public schools to promote religious and other private schools punishes our children and their teachers. In light of our discussions on Baptist principles of faith, the current push to fund a Roman Catholic Church Virtual School System for Oklahoma with public education monies not only violates the state constitution, but it also violates our religious freedom by favoring one faith over every other. If a church cannot raise enough money from its own faithful for its on-going projects without taxpayer assistance, it should reconsider the scope of its mission.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  Stay free. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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