The Elk

July 2, 2020

Why? Why would “protesters” burn down an elk statue in downtown Portland? On a beautiful little circle in the middle of grass parkway this glorious elk has stood. A sentinel of honor and beauty in an ever-changing world.

This statue has meant more to me than anyone knows.

I was a mock trial coach/teacher in two Oregon high schools – Gold Beach and North Medford. Both repeatedly won their divisions and made it to state every year we competed.

Making it to state was a huge accomplishment, winning rounds was the ice cream on the cake. The most exciting was when my last North Medford team won 4th place! A feat going up against the valley teams. Especially given a few facts.

In both high schools, we were a completely extra-curricular activity. We had no class for instructing 14- through 18-year olds how to work a court room, handle evidence, cross examine a witness, follow the rule of law, think logically, question everything.

In Gold Beach, since my team was made up of athletes, thespians, scientists, and actors, we practiced almost every evening AFTER their sports practices, play rehearsals, ISEF work. My own two young sons were part of the practices as we neared the competition dates. They came over to my classroom every day after school when the bus brought them from the elementary school as part of collecting high school students.

In North Medford, we practiced at LUNCH. A dozen students, two local attorneys, and I gave up lunch time for almost five months for each competition. And the closer we came to competition, the more after-school evening practices we added.

Our lawyer coaches in both schools were amazing. Wonderful professionals who worked countless hours for nothing. Their only payment our gratitude.

Students at both schools worked their asses off for the honor of representing their school and community at the beautiful courthouse building in downtown Portland. We had a number of traditions we created along the way, but none more important to me than the elk statue.

Every year we walked past the elk statue. No matter what direction we were heading we made it a point to walk past it. It was a landmark for us, for me, especially.

It symbolized so much of what was good with the reasons we there. For the rush of competition, certainly, but also for challenging themselves to learn and stretch and be something greater than they were when they started. To work as a team, honoring their teammates by upholding their responsibilities to each other, to our lawyer coaches, to me.

But the criminals who committed this heinous crime will never know what they did today. They’re troglodytes who will never know what it is like to work for something greater than themselves. To follow the rule of law even if you don’t agree, and to work lawfully to change that which is wrong. To honor their teachers and parents. To respect the beauty found in nature and art.

The tears have stopped, but the loss remains.

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