Spoken by English teacher John Keating (brilliantly played by Robin Williams) in the Academy-Award winning film Dead Poets Society (1989) written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir. Each day in class, Keating inspires his students to “make your lives extraordinary” underscored by the Latin phrase, carpe diem, meaning “seize the day.” One of Keating’s favorite poems is Walt Whitman’s beautiful elegy written to honor Abraham Lincoln, whom he greatly respected, titled “O Captain! My Captain!” (It became one of Whitman’s most famous poems.) At the end of the film, when Keating is forced to resign, he enters the classroom one last time to gather some books. One by one each of his students stand on their desk, defying the protests of the stern substitute teacher; they honor Keating by repeating the title of the poem. After Williams committed suicide in 2014, in many eulogies, the actor was honored with Whitman’s timeless poem. In the role as a teacher and an actor, his legacy lives on.
Word and Ideas Can Change the World
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