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Dear Mr. TB, an Open Letter to Andrew Speaker

by Glenn T (writer), Las Vegas, NV, August 09, 2007

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Dear Andrew,

I am sorry that it took a so-called "international crisis" of which you were the centerpiece to finally inspire me to get this onto paper.

I meant to thank you so much sooner. And unfortunately, I am reduced to writing you this way. The maelstrom that has surrounded you of late has prevented me from using any conventional means of contact, as you have most certainly disabled the same for the safety of you and your family. I would have done the same.

I am quite certain that comparatively few people in this world know you as I do, even though you were only briefly a part of my life. Amongst many other things, you remain evidence to me that, often times, very small acts of kindness and selflessness can have extraordinary effects on people and their lives.

Although, it was dealt with dismissively in the background reporting which accompanied your story, and only even in passing on your law firm's website, I know you only from your time at the United States Naval Academy, in late 1994. I didn't know, and couldn't have known, then, but over the course of a few weeks, you changed my life - for the better : perhaps as much as any one person in my life that isn't immediate family. I don't remember why or how you left Navy, and it doesn't matter because my measure of presence at a place is, simply, whether or not anyone remembers you were there after you go. Rest assured, Andrew, you were there.

I won't get into a tremendous amount of detail because I recognize that the intricacies of anecdotes matter mostly to those involved, and their value to others can often be distilled (if any effort is put into it) to a few points. But for the sake of providing at least a modicum of context, and to remind you, lest you've forgotten, I will recall those few weeks you spent with me, nearly a dozen years ago, now:

After successfully completing my first year at the Academy, I was a lot of things, but neither "big" nor "strong" was on the list - and boy didn't I let everyone know it. At 5'9" and just over 135 pounds, I was more "famine victim" than "military warrior" - but like most small things that learned how to survive, I was fast and agile... and made a lot of noise to distract predators.

In short, I was quickly annoying. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how we first came into contact, but I do remember you growing rapidly weary of my endless complaining about being small - and as you've always been known known to do, you offered solution rather than sympathy. I already had an idea of how to address my problem, and your simple country logic provided a simple and similar plan ("get the weight room, stupid", as I recall), but I was missing both know-how and motivation, and you offered to provide both. And I would need them, because, a military academy's main weight room is exactly as intimidating as you would imagine it would be for the strength-training novice, especially for someone whose weightlifting knowledge consisted solely of knowing that they couldn't lift much.

You were a kid, just the same as me. But you were patient as an instructor, and persistent as a coach, in advance of your years. I searched almost constantly during our trips to the weight room, for excuses and cop outs, and spent a great deal of time close to tears and uttering "I can't"s in a cracking voice. You disallowed my weakness, and refused, although it could not have been any easier, to ridicule me, even in jest. I remember most vividly of all, you forcing me to do push-ups each time I said something bad about myself. It's a lesson I, unfortunately, have to relearn from time to time, but am grateful for nonetheless.

In a strange coincidence, my friend, we both ended up as lawyers. It's no surprise to me that you found a way to continue to help people. You'll be glad to know that I put your lessons to much good use. After you were gone from the Academy, I continued in that weight room, just as you had taught me. After graduation, and during submarine training, I became more serious - and ultimately, my outer strength caught up with my inner. What you may find even more startling that I've taken up as a sport, the throwing of spry young ladies up over my head and catching them on one outstretched hand - which when we first met, was as far off for me as the moon itself. And while I'm sure cheerleading isn't quite what you had in mind for me - I still think you'd be happy to see it. It might even bring you a smile in these trying times.

I could go on and on about the state of modern media, and the railroad job that you got when the whole thing went down. I could try to explain for the uninitiated masses how the federal government interacts with its former employees, and how the letters you received, which were painted as strict directives, would appear the to trained eye as nothing more important than a recommendation not to drive over the speed limit. But that's commentary which I trust is wholly unnecessary to anyone whose opinion really matters. I remember the surprise at seeing you after so many years, and the horror of watching their portrayal of you. I have also observed the almost unmentioned subsequent corrections and backtracking, and can only be grateful that you're in better health, and have been left alone to go on with your new, beautiful bride and successful law practice.

I've tried to come up with a reason for why you did what you did back then, and I can't. We weren't company-mates, and I had little, if anything, to offer you in return. It remains one of the most selfless things anyone has ever done for me. I learned as much from you in that Hall as I did from anyone, and I am forever grateful. You changed my life, and made me, in part, the man I am today. I'll never be able to thank you enough. I hope, in some small part, that my story can help people to know you as I did, and give voice to the countless others who feel the same. I hope that, in the end, you will not be judged by the millions that knew you for a moment, but rather by the few you have touched forever.

I don't know why you left the Yard, Andrew, and I don't care. But when I go back this fall, for my ten year reunion, I'm going to put a small note behind the little plaque in Chauvenet Hall that has my name on it, with your name. I don't know how long it will stay there, but we'll both know it's there. It will help me to remember, at the site of my proudest accomplishment, that behind me, there were great people who lifted me to those heights, who asked nothing in return, and whose help should never, ever be forgotten.

Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.

~ Glenn



About the Writer

Glenn T is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Dear Mr. TB, an Open Letter to Andrew Speaker

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By Glenn T on August 09, 2007 at 07:15 pm
El G, well said, and witty as always. Although we seldom seem to agree - I always appreciate your candor and humor. In the end, I suppose all we endeavor to do as writers here is to inspire others to think. I just want folks to know that even in those who suppose are most evil, there is still the capacity for great good. Thanks for taking the time to read... and write.
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By lawdawg on August 10, 2007 at 03:36 pm
Glenn, Thanks, it is a simple word, but doesn't come close to expressing how much I appreciate what you took the time to do. This is Andrew Speaker, and I was looking to find a particular article and came across yours. It sounds like you are doing great and I'd certainly like to hear more about what you have been up to and just how life is treating you. Needless to say the last few months have been a little rough. As you are probably aware, rarely is the truth what is reported. Many people have the same opinion that El G stated above, and I don't blame them based on what they heard. Unfortunately, there have been blatant lies from CDC and Fulton County. I am not talking about opinions, but facts, regarding what was said and what was done. Last night I was on the locals news and even challenged them to go on live television to go over the truth. Just to clear up some basics, everyone knew that I had drug resistant TB before I left. The CDC and my county and doctors were all in discussion about my trip and knew when and where I was going. I was clearly told before I left that I was "not contagious" and not a threat to anyone. One-third of the world has TB, over 90% are not contagious. My father-in-law was at that meeting and was fine with me going. They should have told the public that there has NEVER been a recorded case of active TB being transmitted on an airplane! But, educating people doesn't generate funding, scaring the heck out of them does. It is 'fear' versus 'education'. I won't go into correcting all the lies that have been told, that is not why I am responding and this isn't the right forum. Everything comes back around in life. For any bit of encouragement or kindness I may have given you, you have more than returned to me. This morning I am looking at how on earth to respond to a lawsuit in Canada, much of my business has been destroyed and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Your letter took me away from all of that for a moment and put a smile on my face. More importantly, it helped me put my mind back in the right place. You can't do much about what others say or do, you just have to work on caring for those around you and trying to make a difference by being a good person. You have all of my best wishes and sincere appreciation.
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By sspeaker on August 10, 2007 at 03:50 pm
Dear Glenn, This is Andrew Speaker's wife and I wanted to write seperately to express my gratitude in your article. I have the pleasure of spending the rest of my life with such a generous, kind person; it has been heart-breaking to hear so many awful things about my husband over the preceeding months. Andrew is an extremely conscientious person, he would never have knowingly put a single person in harm's way. Further, they estimate that he has been carrying this disease for over 14 months now, the entire time his infectious status never changed. The entire time he was spending more than 8 hours with his family in confined spaces (our midtown condo certainly qualifies) and yet I, as well as our little girl, continue to test negative. I am pleased to hear that you are doing well. I sincerely hope I get the chance to meet you. Thank you for taking the time out of your life to generously and articulately express these kind thoughts. Blessings to you and your family.
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By TonyBerkman on November 04, 2011 at 07:09 pm

Amazing way to reconnect. I hope you guys connect in "person" again. I have a couple of people in my life that impacted me the way Andrew impacted your life. They are certainly few and far between. Andrew, I hope you are doing well.

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