Schaefer gives students advice, talks about city's future and life after politics Former governor is keynote speaker at Friends School event

February 08, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Friends School students received a lesson on life after politics yesterday from former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and one of them even got a little homework.

Mr. Schaefer was the keynote speaker at Friends' annual upper school convocation, a something-for-everyone day of topics not covered in the regular curriculum -- from making pottery to surviving the Holocaust.

In a rambling talk titled "Baltimore's Future and Other Observations," Mr. Schaefer dropped old-fashioned advice amid bits of Baltimore history and tales from his 40 years in public office and return to private life 13 months ago.

"When you're out of office, no one asks you to speak, no one applauds you. So this is nice," said Mr. Schaefer as he opened the day at the North Baltimore private school shortly after 8 a.m.

"The greatest job I ever had in my life was mayor," he said.

"What you do has to be rewarding," he advised, saying he had become a lawyer -- which he did not enjoy -- because his father was a lawyer. "Think for yourself."

With self-deprecating humor, he told of life after the governor's mansion, of trying to drive to College Park but ending up in Washington, and of thinking that the grocery store clerk was inquiring about his method of payment when she asked, "Paper or plastic?"

Mr. Schaefer offered the homework assignment to Emily Hopkins, one of two students who cited failing public schools in response to his assertion that after some down times, "the city is right on the edge of moving forward" with projects such as the new children's museum, the Convention Center addition and the new football stadium.

"Why don't you write me a thesis on your solutions," Mr. Schaefer said when the 11th-grader persisted in asking why he espoused projects for the wealthy when the poor have so many needs.

"You're an idealist, and I think that's right. But give me your solutions," he said, promising to send them on to state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, whom he called "the only possible solution to saving the public school system in Baltimore."

He had some serious advice for all the students: "You are going to have a job, but don't forget your family. That's one thing I never had.

"Put something back into your community, and you will have a great life," he said. "Be interested in where you live and make it a great place."

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