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Many of us are lucky enough to have had that great teacher or two who had a formative impact on our lives, shaping how we think and feel about ourselves and our world. (I've always felt that Mrs. Content Guy is one of those … that the children she has taught in first, second and third grades will always remember her passion, good cheer and engagement, as well as her driving desire to get them not just to learn, but to think.)

I've had several of those teachers in my life - people who I think about all the time, who helped make me who I am, who helped make me a better man. I mentioned all this because over the weekend, while talking to an old friend, I learned that one of these teachers - Bill Fitzgerald - died on October 2, about two months shy of his 89th birthday.

I only took one class from Bill. "Politics & the Movies" was a class he team-taught during my senior year at Loyola Marymount University, and I loved it … we not only watched movies about politics, but engaged with guests from both politics ands the film industry to learn about the intersection of culture and public policy. It was a dream semester, and he and I became friends … we corresponded over the years, and I always stopped by his office when visiting LMU's campus in Los Angeles. After he retired, we stayed in touch for a while, but not for some time. And I felt bad about that when I learned about his death.

For the record, I'd like to share with you what his family wrote about Bill on

If the test of a person is how much joy, humor and love one spreads about our planet, Bill Fitzgerald passed that test with flying colors. As a soldier in World War II, he fought fascism and discrimination on the beach of Normandy and the fields of Europe. As a young man, he captured the heart of Martha, the love of his life, and together they created 11 wonderful children. As a professor at Loyola Marymount University, he opened thousands of minds and filled them with a thirst for knowledge and collective engagement.

Full of boundless intellectual curiosity, Bill explored the worlds of politics and public policy with a keen eye informed by his very human heart. He and Martha were courageous leaders throughout the American civil rights movement, the peace movement and the ongoing fight for simple economic justice. A Ph.D. in political science, Bill understood that politics is, at its core, the democratic means of creating a fair and just society. And he dedicated his life to accomplishing that goal.

Greatness can be defined a lot of ways. For my money, Bill Fitzgerald was a great man, and someone who helped shape my life. And I wanted to use my small soapbox to pay tribute.
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