A former student of mine is going through a rough patch. He spoke up in defense of a couple of others and those he challenged reacted harshly.  He expressed his opinion and they acted to stunt his future opportunities.  He is cocky and he is rash, but he is also brave and loyal. He is  eighteen. He is a true diamond in the rough. Why can’t any  of his current teachers lift him up rather than kicking him while he is down?  If I knew the answer to that, I would be rich and famous instead of smart and good looking!

I wrote this for him  in hopes of buoying his spirits and shining some light on the way forward.

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Never Give Up or Give In



As we live and make our way

We must decide what we will say

Life falls like rain on me and you

We must decide what we will do

Some will tell us play it cool

Do not speak up or break a rule

No matter what we may think

Our lives can change in just a blink

Others will urge us to take a stand

Speak right up and lend a hand

Be we their or our own man

They think we can’t; we know we can.

They will try to beat us down.

To rob us of our just renown

With words and deeds they make the case

To try to keep us in our place

Don’t let them make you weak – resist

Make room for your strength to exist

Don’t let them fill your mind with shame

But dance in the glow of your heart’s flame

Of all the things I’m sure are true,

I’m most certain of the worth of you

You’ve made mistakes due to your youth

But you’re a winner and that’s the truth.

So let our foes do what they may

You’ve got the courage to make your way

No matter how they carp and criticize

Believe in yourself and forget their lies.

© 2012, Larry Conley. All rights reserved.

Larry Conley (36 Posts)

I am a veteran of the U. S. Army. My good fortune is to be married to a wonderful woman and have two remarkable twin sons who are making their way in the world. I taught civics in a Pittsburgh area middle school. I am a cat and dog lover.


  1. “No matter how they carp and criticize

    Believe in yourself and forget their lies.”

    Sounds like your former student has some integrity and has chosen to take the right but brave path, a character defining choice. The last line of your poem can be hard to do but worth it in the end.

    As Bukowski wrote, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

    Great poem Larry.

    • Larry Conley (Author)


      Thanks for your insightful comment. Yes this lad is a brave one. Often his bravery is met with hostility, but if one allows oneself to peer beneath the veneer, one finds a sterling spirit and a golden heart.

      Thanks again!

  2. Strongly encouraging, Larry, as well as inspiring. This former student is fortunate to have you as.a mentor.

    • Larry Conley (Author)

      As ever Cher,

      Thank you for your gracious words and your unflagging support. As a teaching friend of mine remarked, M is and always will be my student. I only hope I can prove to be a worthy teacher.

      Thanks again for everything.

  3. Dani Heart

    What a great thing to do to support his spirit. It is so difficult to stand up against the popular opinion eventhough it is often wrong. Hopefully this will give him a little nourishment for his soul. :)

    • Larry Conley (Author)

      Thank you Dani! He is a brave young man. Often people do not appreciate this in a young Black male. If one takes the time to get beyond the surface, however, one finds diamonds scattered throughout a field of dreams.

  4. Larry, you Are smart and good-looking, but more importantly, you have a loving and loyal heart. I wish I could have had you for one of my teachers. M is a lucky young man. He also sounds like a fine, brave young man, the content of whose character far outweighs the color of his skin – as it Should! Really excellent piece, Larry, Bravo!

  5. Larry Conley (Author)

    Again Melody, I can only say thank you so very much. It is not enough, but it is sincerely said.

  6. Anya

    Wonderful message. At least you’re doing your part in trying to support him. Enough voices can create positive change just as powerfully as peer pressure might create negative change. More people need to speak up in support of each other.

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