What made an impression on me years ago was the way that Malcolm explained his endeavor to be educated. I wasn't interested in his politics and I disagree with his early philosophies, even though he recanted much of it before his death; what stood out to me was the way he described his effort in improving his reading and writing.
Now, I wish for a way that I could bring Malcolm X to life for just one day: to speak to my students and have him critique their work. I want HIM to say, "Is this the best you've learned to do? Is THIS what you have to show with a high school education--AND the ability to enroll in college?!" (For the record, I think Malcolm X wrote better than me when I was in college--at least, until I got to graduate school.)
I want this chance for him to address my students because Malcolm X became an outstanding writer and speaker.
Malcolm X copied the dictionary word-for-word starting with the letter "A" in order to improve his ability to communicate.
I wish I had students with that kind of motivation, not just for my sake as a professor, but for their future.
I look back at Malcolm's words in this essay--and I wonder how his attitude would be toward their effort while knowing how much time he had lost. I wonder how he would tell them how precious it was when he found the courage and conviction in his own life to undertake the effort he did to learn to read and write. My students wouldn't even begin to understand that in the years when Malcolm was a young man, he wasn't allowed to attend a school where fellow students were not the same race.