For Leslie

On April 16, 2007 Leslie Sherman was one of 32 victims killed during the Virgina Tech shootings in Blacksburg, Virginia.
As a student at West Springfield High School, Leslie was an active student in James A. Percoco's Applied History course, and she remained in close contact until her death. The following is the text of a speech written for Leslie in April 2007.

"A Drum Major for Life"
By James A. Percoco

In his 1967 Christmas Sermon on Peace, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable next work of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are all made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality." Tonight, let us sit here in the present moment and be still and let our collective stillness echo the silence that is God and nurture our collective presence, knowing that we, as a community, and a nation, are present to one another.

The events of Monday burden all of us, but while we bear that grief let us not forget about the great gift that is Life. Let us channel the energy of our grief for a higher purpose that belongs solely to the impenetrable light that we all carry. May we, also use this moment as an opportunity to reflect on the impermanent nature that is subject to all creation, and to embrace that impermance knowing that it, too, is part of the great mystery of our existence. While the nation grieves and while we share our compassion for all the loved ones consumed by this tragedy, we have our own singular loss. Leslie Sherman loved life with an abandon, and that is how she should best be remembered. Many of us loved Leslie and she reciprocated freely with her return gift of love to us. Her legacy should fuel our sense of service to one another. Her ministry of compassion, reflected in a myriad of light filled ways, most recently demonstrated in her trip to New Orleans late last year to work on a project for the Habitat For Humanity, is a model for the young and the old. Let us see Leslie's life as an example that we may model a genuinely compassionate spirit. Leslie's deep, yet always joyful intellectual curiosity, took her to places inside herself, where in her light she transformed ideas into a living presence and reality that touched all whom she encountered. In this time of anguish let us honor Leslie by not casting recrimination, condemnation, and judgment in an effort to resolve our pain and loss and anger and place blame. Leslie was far too big for that. Let the light of her life guide us down the road she would have followed.

Two months to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. King delivered a sermon he called "The Drum Major Instinct." His sermon was based on the thirty-fifth verse in the tenth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Mark. In this passage Jesus sets for his apostles the role, place, and the value of service for the good of others. King lamented in his remarks that the nations of the world were drifting precariously close to what he called the 'drum major instinct" an instinct that thrives on the illusion of, "I must be first. I must be supreme." King said it matters not whether you can make your subject and your verb to agree to serve. You don't need to know Plato and Aristotle to serve. And you don't need to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Leslie had both. King wanted to be remembered for being a drum major for justice; a drum major for peace. Let us let Leslie's legacy be that of a brilliant, illuminated Drum Major for Life.

To the 32 who lost thier lives--you will be missed.

Ross Abdallah Alameddine, Jamie Bishop, Brian Bluhm, Ryan Clark, Austin Cloyd, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak,Daniel Perez Cueva, Kevin Granat, Matthew Gwaltney, Caitlin Hammaren, Jeremy Herbstitt, Rachael Hill, Emily Hilscher, Jarrett Lane, Matt La Porte, Henry Lee, Liviu Liberscue, G.V. Loganathan, Partahi Lumantruan, Lauren Ashley McCain, Dan O'Neil, Juan Oriz, Minal Panchal, Erin Peterson, Michael Steven Pohle, Jr., Julia Pryde, Mary Karen Read, Reema Samaha, Waleed Shaalan, Leslie Sherman, Maxine Turner, Nicole Regina White