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Remembering an iconic voice of wisdom

Harper Lee, the iconic author of

Harper Lee, the iconic author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," passed away on Feb. 19. (photo/

Her words inspired actions. Her story provided wisdom for generations. Her legendary novel remains a classic. Harper Lee is iconic.

The author of the acclaimed “To Kill a Mockingbird” passed away earlier this morning, on Feb. 19, at the age of 89. When I first heard the news, I was sitting in my Advanced Poetry Workshop course. There was a collected stream of “aww” amongst English majors.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” tackles the difficult subject of race, told through the naïve and innocent voice of a young girl – Scout. The novel was a lesson to generations about race and acceptance. There’s a reason why Lee’s book is still sold in bookstores, and continues to be a popular selection for high-school literature classes.

I remember reading the book in my high-school freshman English class. I was intrigued by Lee’s voice of wisdom. I flipped quickly through pages and pages of the novel, constantly wanting to know what happens next in the plot. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of the many books that inspired me to continue my love for reading in college, studying creative writing and literature at Ohio Northern University. Would I have become a writer without Lee’s book? Yes, I’d like to believe I would. Yet, I certainly wouldn’t be as inspired by racial and diversity topics if not for her novel.

I watched the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck last summer after I re-read the book. The court trial scene was particularly inspiring to me, both in the book and in the movie. Peck delivers a fantastic speech, completely transforming himself into the character and stern voice of Atticus Finch.

Reading the chapter, or viewing this clip, has made me ponder multiple questions: What is race? What is diversity? What is innocence?

All men are created equal. That's exactly what Harper Lee is trying to say throughout the entire novel. She inspired readers by presenting a white character defending an African-American character in an intensive court trial. After the novel was published, Lee lived a reserved life. She did not publish another book until last summer’s sequel to her literary classic, “Go Set a Watchman.” I must admit I wasn’t as impressed with the sequel as I was with the original 1960 novel, but that could be discussed in an entirely different article.

Harper Lee was a voice of reason in a dynamic America in the 1960s. Her words continue to teach me valuable lessons: Don’t judge a person by the color of his/her skin.

Below is my favorite moment in the film -- the moment when Atticus Finch is leaving the court room after being defeated in the trial. Each African-American in the room rises for him as he passes by, showing respect for his efforts. 

I rise for you, Harper Lee. Thank you. You will be missed dearly from the world of literature. At least we will always have your words and ideas of wisdom to cherish.


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