Loretta, Jimmy and Me

Frank Farley (Center) Receiving the 2022 Distinguished Professional Contributions to Media Psychology and Technology Award. Photo Credit: Kathryn Stamoulis

Loretta Lynn, music media superstar, famously coal miner’s daughter, has died at age 90. Because of the education profession and the push to increase the public visibility and awareness of the accomplishments and needs of American education, I met her at the White House during the administration of Jimmy Carter. Her passing brought back memories of this country media maven as well as memories of an especially innovative, and like Loretta, down-to-earth and folksy American President. President Carter and Congress had undertaken a major restructuring of education leadership by creating a separate Dept. of Education with its own Cabinet seat, giving it a place at the table with all the other Cabinet Secretaries, such as Secretary of Defense, Commerce, etc. So the President wished a day-long celebration at the White House to highlight and honor education, to introduce the new and first-ever Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler, to alert the media to this major moment in the history of American education. I was then President of the American Educational Research Association the world’s largest association of education scholars and researchers. The President asked me if I would come to the White House to represent U.S. education research and scholarship. Of course I said yes, and it was a most impressive celebration and a lot of fun! One memorable thing the President did was invite some entertainment superstars to join in the celebration and bring to the White House their fave teacher from their own school days. They then could chat in front of us with that fave teacher from long ago about education, teaching, or anything else related. Loretta brought her fave teacher of some decades before, and it was a delight!

There was an interesting poster in the White House at this day-long celebration, a sort of cubist work, that said in large print, “Learning Never Ends,” representing this particular celebration and the new Department of Education. The President and I were chatting in front of it, while looking it over, and I mentioned to him “It’s got to end sometime!” He laughed and responded “I know what you mean! ” At the end of the day he remembered and so graciously gave me the poster. As an educator, I still have it! Much later after this wonderful day celebrating education I was invited to the Carter Center in Atlanta to speak on mental health issues which was a major topic with the First Lady. I was delighted to be onstage with her and some others on the topic. Jimmy is now 98, the oldest living and longest-lived President, in a 76-year-long marriage, making him as I understand it, the longest-married President. An amazing and gracious leader and humanitarian, with great taste in country music! 

(Editors’ Note: Frank Farley received the 2022 Distinguished Professional Contributions to Media Psychology and Technology Award of the APA Society for Media Psychology and Technology.)

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