Marlow, who has lived in both China and Taiwan, told me about the reverence for teachers in Confucian society, and was there for Teacher's Day one year, a Sunday upon which everyone was expected to honor their teachers and give them gifts. So it wasn't a complete surprise when Peggy Coquet sent me this, from Wordsmith.org:
Millions around the globe will celebrate World Teachers' Day on October 5. Growing up in India, I came to regard my teachers with the highest respect. Kabir, a mystic poet in 15th century India, wrote in one of his couplets (in Hindi),
"Guru Govind dou khade, kaake laagoon paye
Balihari guru aapki, Govind diyo milaye."
I face both God and my guru. Who should I bow to first?
I first bow to my guru because he's the one who showed me the path to God.
The word guru is from Sanskrit via Hindi where its literal meaning is venerable or weighty. Ultimately the word is derived from the same Indo-European root that gave us the word gravity.
When I came to the US to attend graduate school, I was horrified to hear students addressing the professors by their names, even first names. Eventually, I persuaded myself to call my professors Dr. White or Dr. Kennedy but I could never address them Lee or Miles.
Teachers' Day is observed on various days in different parts of the world. In India, it's celebrated on September 5; in the US it's on the Tuesday of the first full week of May. World Teachers' Day is [was] on October 5: Whenever you celebrate it, to all the world's teachers: I bow to you.
The column then discussed the word of the day. It concluded with a quote from Lee Iacocca: "In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have." I always knew there was a reason I liked Lee Iacocca so much.