Martha Cothren's Lesson

July 6, 2018

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate having this exceptional nation and the freedoms it gives us, but we must always remember that we have those things because of all the soldiers who put their lives on the line to secure them for us, from Revolutionary times forward.  There’s a story I love to tell that illustrates that for young people.

When I was Governor of Arkansas, I got to know an outstanding high school teacher in Little Rock named Martha Cothren.  She was one of my original Huck’s Heroines, and I was always telling her it was my goal to make her one of the most famous teachers in America, because she’d be such a great example to all teachers.  Here’s just one reason why. 

 



Martha became concerned that many of her kids didn’t fully appreciate their precious American freedoms.  So she prepared an unusual lesson for them.  On the first day of school, the kids shuffled back into class only to discover that it was completely empty.  Not a desk in sight.  So they asked, “Miss Cothren, where are the desks?”  She replied, “You don’t get your desk until you can tell me how you earn it.” 

The kids were stunned, but they started trying to guess how they earned their desks.  By getting good grades?  No, that’s not the answer.  By behaving in class?  No, that’s not it.  The first period ended with the kids leaning against the walls or sitting on the floor, but they never had figured out how they earn their desks. 

Well, in trooped the second period class.  They were greeted with the same empty room and the same question they couldn’t answer.  This went on all day, and by lunchtime, word was circulating all over school that Miss Cothren had gone crazy.

 


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Finally, during the last class of the day, she told the students, “Okay, nobody’s figured out how you earn your desks, so I’ll tell you.”  She opened the door, and in walked 27 military veterans, each one carrying a desk.  As they quietly placed them in neat rows, Martha said, “Kids, you don’t have to earn your desks because these guys earned them for you.”  She said you get free desks, free books and a free education, but it wasn’t free to these veterans…or to their friends who never came home from the wars they fought to give us all that freedom.  She said, “Whenever you sit in that desk, try to remember who earned it for you.” 

After that lesson, Martha was approached by one of those veterans, a news photographer, with tears in his eyes.  He told her that when he returned from Vietnam, he was cursed and spat on, and made to feel ashamed of his service.  He said, “Today is the first day since I’ve been home that I felt like someone appreciated what I did.” 

Unfortunately, there can’t be a Martha Cothren in every school.  But other teachers and parents can make sure their kids know who earned their desks for them.  And we can all make it a point to say “thank you” to current and former members of the U.S. military.  Seems to me, the 4th of July would be a great time to start. 


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Comments 1-25 of 25

  • Laura Buntin

    07/09/2018 05:05 PM

    Thank you for standing up for truth, patriotism and Biblical principles. I like that u include a Bible verse with your articles. I also want to say how much I admire and appreciate your daughter, Sarah. She is a pinicle of strength, integrity and decorum. I love how she handles the press and adversity. She is an excellent roll model for all woman. (Pls share with her. I don't Tweet) Continue to do what u do. We need u. God bless u.

  • Lynn Morgan

    07/09/2018 01:27 PM

    Thank you!!

  • Scott Thompson

    07/09/2018 12:38 PM

    Very appropriate...and.very true.

  • George Lewis

    07/08/2018 08:56 AM

    I am a Vietnam veteran, I know how that man feels.

  • Rachel Enriquez

    07/08/2018 02:54 AM

    Thank you for that story,my prayer and wish is for every teacher, k-collage,would think like Martha Cothren, seems people forget that we also have the freedom to work and pay taxes which is also a privilage ,thanks to all who fought for it. God Bess you and the USA.

  • James Evart

    07/08/2018 02:30 AM

    It seems to me that there should be a statute of limitations on slander. I have been seeing things dredged up from 20 years ago on our leaders spearheaded by people who have obvious reasons for doing so and I am getting sick of it. Has there every been a human being who has not made a mistake and learned from it except these self righteous liberals who have absolutely slinging mud and sometimes downright lies at others with absolutely no accountability for their actions? Malicious, self-righteous hypocrites have always angered and disgusted me. Should they not be made accountable and at least be made to incur some sort of punishment for their disgusting, unfair, unjust treatment of others? The IRS, I think, uses a 7 year statute of limitations on taxes. Why not do the same for liberals who cannot seem to be able to uncross their eyes and brains in slandering others with half baked BS which little by line retractions do very little to undue the TIMELY damage that their forked tongues incur? Let's stop this ridiculous behaviour and make people accountable for hamstringing others with their character assassinations .

  • Lee Wooldridge

    07/08/2018 02:20 AM

    Great story about the "school desks". The military would not take me when I was a kid. I was what they called "4F". Regretted it all my life. I'm 77 now......

  • DrProduct

    07/07/2018 07:35 PM

    Wow. Martha Cothren makes me wish I could have been a teacher! At least for a day... :-)

  • Alice I Claar

    07/07/2018 05:25 PM

    As you know I am 84 years young with two husbands and a son that served their country and remember well who won our freedom. Thanks for a wonderful story about a wonderful lady.

  • Robin Durham

    07/07/2018 02:45 PM

    Would love to see a tv show called “What is freedom (really)?” Point out the personal freedoms we have (to go places, to drive, to choose our stores, to vote, to NOT HAVE Sharia law, to go to church, to choose anything, to purchase things.)
    The list goes on and on.
    Think it would be eye-opening to the liberals who want everything controlled by them.

  • Bea Thomas

    07/07/2018 02:35 PM

    Your article concerning teacher Martha Cothren's lesson to her students is the best example for not only the youth but many, many adults who take our freedom for granted - or who know NOTHING about why we are the most wonderful country in the world. Students are missing the MOST IMPORTANT lesson in life by not knowing about America's history and what we stand for.
    GOD BLESS AMERICA and our youth.
    Bea Thomas

  • Nancy Patterson

    07/07/2018 01:57 PM

    Excellent example and lesson! Oh, if Only teachers were that patriotic in these days!!!

  • Deborah Varallo

    07/07/2018 01:39 PM

    Mr. Huckabee, thank you for sharing that tremendous story. I would imagine that every child who experiences this -- will remember it forever. All our citizens, young and old, constantly need to be reminded of the impact our military soldiers encounter for us. Many thanks to Martha Cothren for do this. Thank you, Deborah Varallo

  • Mike Smith

    07/07/2018 12:21 PM

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with the explanation Ms Cothren gave to her classes. I'm also one of those veterans that helped the kids "earn" their seats in class. I'm fine with the story as far as that goes, but she should NOT have told those kids that it was free. That's totally misrepresenting what the parents of those kids are doing, and destroys our concepts of civic duty. The parents pay taxes, usually VERY high taxes that go towards the costs for that school.

    By omitting that portion of reality from the example, those kids were set on a path of entitlement.

    I, and other veterans, didn't serve this great country to have people believe they are entitled to anything other than what God gave them. God-given rights. Other rights like civil rights ARE earned, by being contributing members of society. Good and generally well behaving citizens. Not sponges that believe they are entitled to support from others throughout their life.

    Thanks for the story Mike, but I hope you might "edit" parts for future use and omit the parts about the "free" stuff. I wish there were more teachers like Ms Cothren. Our country needs good ones, even if they don't get it exactly right. It's still a good lesson and so many teachers today are teaching BAD lessons, not just ignoring the good ones.

  • Howard Boggs

    07/07/2018 11:51 AM

    It is as He said: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” And when Joshua brought the people into the promised land, it only took one generation for them to forget the God of their fathers. Why? Because their parents did a poor job of teaching them their roots.

  • Nellie Williams

    07/07/2018 11:44 AM

    Thank you that is a great lesson. Our school system has degraded to the extend it is pathetic. Wish you would put that one on Facebook for everyone to read. I would forward it, but I am a 76 year old great grandmother and these electronic gadgets gets the best of me! lol. Keep up the good. God bless you, Sara Sanders, our President and his family and please God, bless the USA

  • HASHMAT ALI

    07/07/2018 11:42 AM

    Martha Cothren's story is a vert heart worming story.Thank you for sharing it.

    However - Wars are not a solution. We should never have wars.
    Any one can make a case for war for one or other reason BUT that does not make war right.
    We should not be sending our soldiers to other countries. Let them solve their own problems.
    We send our soldiers to other countries and our soldiers get wounded or killed there. Also, many
    innocent people, including children, also get killed in those countries and no one here talks
    or feel sympathy about them. Consequently, common people in those countries do not like
    the United States and the US army fighting n killing in their countries.

  • Patricia A. Miller

    07/07/2018 11:37 AM

    Martha's story chocked me up. Our teachers don't teach our children History anymore. They are taught to be self-centered and self-indulgent, There would not be the riots and killings if we were taught to honor our heroes and try to be like them instead of the kind of poor role models we have today.

  • Sue L Hakanson

    07/07/2018 11:31 AM

    I feel grateful that I had teachers who took their jobs seriously and for the education I received in the rural schools.
    I was shocked when I substituted as a nurse in a big city school district and saw students who ranted that they were
    being mistreated because of their color (black) It was very obvious that it was not their color, but it was their bad attitudes
    and disrespect that lead them to be "mistreated". I thought of many black children who desperately wanted to learn how to
    read, but wasn't allowed to. It is scarey to see students who take for granted the schools and teachers and the government
    interference that doesn't allow the teachers to really teach.

  • Jeanne Bullock

    07/07/2018 11:12 AM

    Thank you for telling the truth..I Love reading all your comment. We are praying for your daughter and all of your family. God Bless America.
    Blessings Jeanne

  • Jeanne Bullock

    07/07/2018 11:10 AM

    Thank you for telling the truth..I Love reading all your comment. We are praying for your daughter and all of your family. God Bless America.
    Blessings Jeanne

  • John Foust

    07/07/2018 10:44 AM

    I didn't have a Martha Cothren but I did have a Sue Settles and I think they were both "A+" teachers. We were told a story of someone in history that did something courageous for our country, after we said the pledge of allegiance each morning. She was good story teller of those military patriots who bought us our country. I'm 73 and I still remember that third grade teacher just like it was yesterday.

  • Gayle Casias

    07/07/2018 10:22 AM

    What a beautiful story. I wish we had more teachers like this one.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  • Nita Downum

    07/07/2018 10:12 AM

    Thank you so much for this article about Martha Cothren. My husband served in Vietnam in the 60’s and when he returned home I was the only one to meet him. It was heartbreaking. He was drafted but joined the Marine Corp instead of the army. People don’t realize what we went through during those 4 years. He flew helicopters and was shot at so many times and picked up dead and dying troops among the agent orange that has caused him to be in kidney failure. I had a nervous breakdown during that time and neither one of us had any support. We love our country and are very patriotic. We have been married 54 years. We are both 73 years old and my Marine has been on the transplant list for 7 years. The VA hasn’t helped him at all and will not accept his kidney failure for disability. I could write a book about his service, but just wish people appreciated our veterans, our president and our country with respect and gratitude.

  • Margo netherlands

    07/06/2018 03:06 PM

    i ALWAYS thank veterans for their service and teach my students the same. the lord has shown america his love, mercy, and grace. countless millions have done the same through military service. god bless our military nd god bless america.????????????????????