'Make good decisions. Be kind to each other. Let something good be said. Let something good be done. And always know, I love you.' That's been my message for the last two years.
Principal of Ascension Catholic School John Beck will retire June 30. Again. But he will not sit idle. Last week at the Memorial Day ceremony in Louisiana Square Beck spoke about his plans for the future and some about his past.
Two years ago when his wife overcame a battle with cancer, Beck said she pushed him to get back to work.
"She said look, you don't have to hang with me. Why don't you go back to work," Beck said. "I had taught history at Assumption, and she said go talk to them. Maybe you could teach history again."
The former history teacher had another thing coming. Beck interviewed with Dr. Miller and Fr. Paul at AC, and said that they had him pegged to become principal.
"After about five minutes, the conversation stopped and they said, 'Mr. Beck, we want you, we need you. The Holy Spirit is moving you here.' I said, 'Whoa, time out, time out. I've got to talk to the Holy Spirit.'"
Beck said his wife had already talked to the Holy Spirit.
"I feel that God always puts us in a position where we can contribute, and I felt I had a lot to contribute."
Beck has a tremendous background in education. He previously served on the Assumption Parish School Board for 32 years. He is also a past president of the state school board.
"I reached a point in March where I said I think I want to do something part time. The Superintendent said what about advancement and development?"
This led to a conversation over strategy that is ongoing. Beck will switch gears to focus on fundraising for the school, which is 176 years old. He stresses the importance of alumni and community contributions.
"Without that school, this community would be a lot different."
But beyond simply the vocational lane-change for Beck, he loves the children. He wears a purple and gold beaded bracelet with "I [heart] U" engraved on three of the top beads.
"A little second-grader gave me this," he said. "Last year, I brought a little John Beck sign language to the school." He makes the sign with his hand and explains, "The letter I, the letter L, the letter U. I share that. In every classroom with have a poster with the hand signal. 'I love my God, I love myself, I love my community. I love my family, my neighbor, my country. Share the words. Make a difference in the world. I love you.
"Some people have trouble saying or even demonstrating because of how they were brought up, affectionate or not. A lot of people take love for granted--you know I love you . . . but, you know--If we can demonstrate, in my heart I've come to a point in my spirituality that I really truly love everybody. Not everybody loves me. I can't help how they feel about me."
Beck added that when people have road rage, they get their fingers mixed up, but he does the AC sign for "I love you" instead. He said he might say the phrase 500 times a week.
"What I'm trying to get people to realize is that the foundation of our faith is love," he said. "And if we can demonstrate that every morning--in announcements I say 'Make good decisions. Be kind to each other. Let something good be said. Let something good be done. And always know, I love you.' That's been my message for the last two years.
"If we can raise the level of consciousness or the level of our faith to love, then how can we say and be mean to other people? I'm a better person because of that."
Furthermore, Beck's father was in the Marines and Navy and was a professional photographer. This rubbed off on Beck, who added that while he was a teacher back in the day he may have shot a thousand weddings.
"My mom and dad probably took 10,000 weddings," he said. "One time a bride to be got up to the altar and immediately went into labor. She had the honeymoon nine months before."
Moreover, Beck read a poem at the Memorial Day ceremony that he wrote on December 13, 1988. He said that despite making a 'C' in poetry class while in school, former President George Bush Sr. at one point tucked this poem away in his personal library.
"I guess I was reminiscing about my dad and his war stories. If you don't know the past and learn from it, your destined to repeat it. All we have is one moment at a time."
Long story short, John Beck is stepping down. But he's not going too far away. If you see him around town make sure to show him the love sign.
Ask him about Boudreaux.