Some days, Jack Leifson wonders if he ever reaches students in his history classes at Spanish Fork High School, especially with his speeches about how students can change America's future.
But then there are days that Leifson attends presidential inaugural festivities, which just happen to have been planned by one of his former students, Steve Studdert - the executive director of Bush's inaugural committee and the man who will be Bush's chief "image maker" in the White House.And Studdert says Leifson's classroom inspiration was a major reason that he has reached the highest levels of government.
"That makes all of the tough times worthwhile," Leifson said.
Leifson is one of five Utah teachers, and among hundreds nationwide, who received an all-expenses-paid trip to the inaugural, compliments of Bush's inaugural committee. Bush wants to be known as the "education president," and wanted students and teachers nationwide to be represented at the inaugural.
Studdert, 40, said he is especially glad that Leifson was chosen to be among them.
He said Leifson managed to inspire him to work hard and believe in himself, even though Studdert said he was a "bad student" who "spent more time in the halls than in the classroom" because he just "wanted to have a good time."
"But he told us that we could make a difference in this country, that we could work hard and decide where America should go. I believed him. It was inspirational. I didn't doubt that I could make a difference," Studdert said.
Leifson remembers Studdert not as a bad student, but one who was opinionated, outspoken and often kicking against the system.
"He was always the one to ask why something had to be done a certain way. It made some uncomfortable with him, but I always thoroughly enjoyed the kid," Leifson said.
For example, Studdert was the first Spanish Fork High student to ever run as an independent for student body president. "It's the one campaign that we remember out of the 30 years I've taught there. It's the one we always talk about."
Leifson said the "very conservative" principal at the time questioned whether such a campaign was allowed under the school constitution, so Studdert brought in a lawyer to show that it was.
The principal then would not let Studdert do any campaigning on school property - but Studdert found ways around that.
"Across the street was a big, long chicken coop. One morning he put a huge, tremendous sign that said, `Vote for Stud.' He arranged for a band to come in on the back of a truck. He had a man make red and grey candy - the school colors. And he held a street dance, which was just barely off the school grounds. He ran on the promise to put soda pop machines in the school, which was then considered heresy."
Studdert lost, but with style and fun.
Leifson said that Studdert is also remembered in other ways for his energy and compassion.
"He went on a field trip to the American Fork Training School, and he was appalled at the lack of things for those little kids to do. So he walks up to one of the directors and says, `What do you people really need over here?'
"He said, `Well, we really need bicycles because these little kids wear them out. They love roller skates too and they love soft toys.' Studdert looked around, and the place was bare. So he said, `OK, I'll take care of it.' And the director looked at him like `who's this brash kid?' "
But Leifson said, "He went back and organized the whole town. He had Channel 2, Channel 4 and Channel 5 out there. I went with the cameras as he went around and picked this stuff up. He had a zillion bicycles and roller skates, stuffed animals and toys - you name it."
In fact, they filled a semitrailer truck, a five-ton pickup and some station wagons, which then paraded to the training school without giving any prior warning to its directors.
"They were led by the city fire truck with the chief of police. (Studdert) didn't let these people know he was coming, so the media decided, `Let's watch this Bozo and see what happens.'
"So here comes Studdert rolling into the front of the American Fork Training School with this great big, long truck. He walks in to this same director and says, `Where do you want me to put all this?' The guy says, `What?' Studdert says, `Well, come out here because there's quite a bit.' "
Leifson said Studdert "was special. That's the nice part of being a teacher. It's nice to get some fulfillment besides correcting papers every night and chasing kids into class."
He said, "He was a young man who I think didn't see his full potential there. He has told me since that he got excited when I told him this is his government and his country, and that if he wants to make it something to get in there and do something about it, to not be a spectator in the stands but to get down on the playing field.
"You say that to all your students, and you hope it inspires them. With some it does, and some it doesn't," Leifson said.