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Rita Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

I had a couple teachers who did inspire me. One was this eleventh grade English teacher -- eleventh and twelfth grade. She and I, we still have tea together sometimes today. I was frightened before I went into her class. I heard she was a battle axe. I heard that she would flunk you if you split an infinitive. And it's true. She would, but she also would tell you what a split infinitive was, and then once you knew, you never did it again. She just opened up to me, how language -- how the written word -- can also sing. And she spent, I remember once, 45 minutes on one page: the first page of a novel. By the end of the class, no one had taken down a single note, because we were absolutely enthralled. It was incredible.
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Rita Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

I had a ninth grade English teacher, Mr. Hicks, who put us in groups and gave us impossible poems to interpret. When I say "impossible," I mean poems which had Greek in them -- a little bit of Greek and -- languages we couldn't even -- we couldn't even read the alphabet. "Just tell me what it means. Tell me what you think it means." And after a couple of class periods when we decided this is so impossible we might as well just make a wild guess, it turned out our guesses weren't so wild after all. So he taught us to trust what your gut reaction was to something. Even if you didn't understand every word, to work out the context.
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Freeman Dyson

Theoretical Physicist and Author

Freeman Dyson: They've all excited me more or less equally. But they had very unequal importance. It didn't matter to me whether they're important or not, as long as I could solve them. But it was one in particular that turned out to be important, which was sort of the nature of the way atoms behave, interacting with radiation, with light, and radio waves. So that was a physics problem which I was able to solve about two years after I came to America. So it was early in my career. So it was a great piece of luck that particular problem turned out to be important, and that's why I got ahead. I mean, I became a full professor on the basis of that. So that particular problem had been hanging around for some time, and so it was well known to be important, and I had the mathematical tools that were needed. And after that I looked at all sorts of other problems which, to me, were just as exciting, but which were only interesting to two or three people all together. That's just a matter of chance in a way.
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Sylvia Earle

Undersea Explorer

Sylvia Earle: Well, I say that I worked when I went through school, but it wasn't to me work. It was really a source of pleasure. I worked as a laboratory assistant, and it was throwing me right into the midst of the very people that I wanted to be with. And never mind that I was washing glassware, and whipping up banana medium to feed the fruit flies and things and things of that sort. I found it just that that I was with the people I most admired. It gave me an entree. It gave me experience. It gave me acceptance with them - I became the lowliest member of the team, but part of the team.
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