Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting A Little Personal: Part 6 Education of a Mayor

The Prelude
Part 1: Early Education
Part 2: MisEducation
Part 3: Educating Them & Us
Part 4: Home Schooling
Part 5: Return to Education
Part 6: Education of a Mayor
The Epilogue

This is the final part of this series. Being black in America is more than skin color. It is a history and a cultural identity that people share that goes back generations. This little post speaks to just how true that is.

A few years ago I spoke at a conference where the keynote speaker was Andrew Young, the former Mayor of Atlanta. Anyone familiar with Andy Young knows that he has a long history of civil rights. He was US Congressman and the first African American Ambassador to the United Nations.

[Me with Mayor Andrew Young in Long Beach,CA]

As Young began his speech he told a story from his childhood that is very much like what I've tried to discuss in this series of post. He told a story about being in elementary school. I believe he was in fifth or sixth grade. He and another student were play fighting and the teacher sent them home. The teacher told them not to return until they came back with their parents. He told of how his mother was so disappointed but she took him to school and he never thought much else about the incident.

Years later when he was a college student, he worked his first or second summer as a lifeguard. One day he had to pull a man from the water and give the man mouth to mouth resuscitation. He said when the man came to and realized what was happening he told Andy Young, "I know you." At first he did not know the man but as the man began to talk he realized it was the other little boy that had been sent home with him years ago. The man told Andrew Young that he had had a very difficult life and that it all started on that day at the school. He said that his mother was never able to take off from her job and he never returned to school after that day.

As Mayor Young told the story, he said that the man explained that he had kept up with how he was doing. The man knew that he was in college and that he was doing well. He told the later-to-be-named Mayor that he could never quit, that he had to excel for all the little boys like him that would never get the chance.

Mayor Young, said the experience changed his life and he decided that he would strive for excellence and be a defender of those who could not fend for themselves. It's these stories from our history that connect us.

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