a rare revival

My grandfather was a famous playwright whose work is rarely revived. A North Dakota farm boy who grew up to write plays in blank verse about kings and queens (and the common man!), he was occasionally guilty of overreaching.

When I was eight, my mother told me to tell my teacher that my grandfather was Maxwell Anderson. I regarded her, dubious; even to my untrained ears, this sounded like a bit of a nonsequitur. But Mom was uncharacteristically confident; she knew we were sitting on a great hand. The next day, I dutifully told my teacher, expecting a prize of some sort, maybe an announcement to the class, something low key obviously–I mean, it’s not like I wrote the plays.

She cocked her head oddly, phoned in a few vague words of approval that could have just as easily applied to Elmer Rice or Robert Sherwood. I backed away, deflated. And yet somehow I never lost confidence in the nugget. Mom wouldn’t send me on a suicide mission, would she?

Forty years later…

Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend quits her job. From her three-page handwritten letter of resignation to the President:

“In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.

Mr. President, you are such a man.”

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