Leo Buscaglia

by Larry Davis, special education teacher

My educator/writer hero is Leo Buscaglia. He passed away about 5 years ago. I read his only college textbook about counseling the parents of disabled children, The Disabled and Their Parents: A Counseling Challenge, as a graduate student at San Francisco State University in 1976. My only concept of him was as a college professor at USC, who had an understanding about teaching and helping special students and their parents. He had himself been a special education teacher in a public school.

In 1977 I was hired by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) as a teacher for deaf/blind students. I became active in the Council for Exceptional Children. Eventually I became the local chapter president. One of our officers was retiring from his job with LACOE. He went to school with Leo Buscaglia. I was asked to write Dr. Buscaglia and find out if he would speak at our retirement celebration for our fellow officer and college chum of Leo. Leo accepted. Everyone was thrilled. I thought it was nice. I also did not know why a college professor who wrote a textbook would be that exciting. After all he had only written that one textbook, which I thought was great. But could the speaker be as exciting as my officers were excited?

I was advised to order a few of Dr. Buscaglia's books in case anybody wanted to buy them. I naturally ordered his textbook because it was the greatest textbook on counseling I had read. A few wise officers suggested I order some of his other books just in case. I found he had written a few other books: Love, Personhood, The Way of the Bull, Because I am Human, and Bus Trip 99. I ordered all the books, but was convinced that the textbook would outsell all the other books. I just said I would order those "other" books if they wished. My officers (mostly LACOE administrators) just smiled knowingly.

Naturally I had to read these "other" books that were ordered because the other officers asked me to introduce Dr. Leo Buscaglia. I was blown away by his insights and passion. Suddenly another man was revealed to me in those books. My wife and I sat next to Leo during dinner and talked. You couldn't help but feel his warmth and humanity. He is truly the doctor of HUGS. Leo's insights are profound. I introduced him saying that when I looked up love in the dictionary, I saw a picture of Leo Buscaglia. I then sat down. He gave my wife and I a BIG HUG. He is my educator/writer hero.

Of course all the books I ordered were sold--EXCEPT that textbook that I read in college. Leo and I BOTH just did not understand. We both laughed so hard we cried.

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"It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely."

Leo F. Buscaglia