Despite the challenges of LAUSD's administrative chaos, Phil sought to teach these kids, many of whom had parents who either couldn't or wouldn't raise their children. He taught the children, many of whom were immigrants to the country, patriotic songs, even though the district disapproved of such political incorrectness. He read them stories, making sure to play all the parts. He created specific goals and reports for each student.
These kids were his kids.
Phil and Cheryl were never able to conceive naturally, so they adopted a son. Their son was troubled, but they poured their heart and soul into raising him, just as they pour themselves into everything they did.
Phil is my uncle -- not the brother of my mom or dad, but an adopted uncle. He is best friends with my father. And my father only has one rule for his friends: They must treat his children with kindness and generosity. Phil is the epitome of both.
My father always said as we were growing up that surrounding your children with good people is one of the chief tasks of a parent. My parents certainly did that with Phil. He is an intellectual, a brilliant man, well-read, soft-spoken. He always provides information, but he is never strident, never arrogant. He is a friend, an advisor, and a mentor. And he is never happier than when I or my sisters tell him about what we're achieving and what battles we're fighting.
I'm writing about Phil now because he's in a hospital in California. He's been battling cancer for several years; last week, he had a stroke. He's still fighting, and he'll still keep fighting. Because that's what we do as Americans. We may never get our 15 minutes of fame. We may never get our headshot on cable television. But we will make the country work, teach the next generation, and do so because we are a generous and forgiving people, willing to slog in the trenches without fame or fortune.
That's my uncle Phil.