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Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD –
Q: What was the strongest part of the 50th anniversary commemoration?
A. All the Little Rock Nine speaking. Those who witnessed it saw history happening.
Q: Who gave the best speech at the commemoration?
A. A toss up between Student Body President Cyrus Bahrassa and Melba Pattillo Beals. Beals was spectacular just like Elizabeth Eckford was at the opening of the new visitor center on Monday. Bahrassa was excellent at both the museum dedication and commemoration event. I would rank Eckford’s speech at the opening of the Visitor Center, Ernie Green’s speech at Political Animals Club, Beals’s speech at the commemoration ceremony, Bahrassa’s speech at the Visitor Center opening and Clinton’s speech at the gala as the top five for all the events with Nikki Giovanni’s reading at the Visitor Center opening very much in the mix.
Q: Why didn’t all the national television morning shows broadcast from Little Rock?
A. President George W. Bush did not attend the event. President Bush’s absence kept many of the national press corps from attending.
Q. Who surprised you the most?
A. Tavis Smiley, who interviewed, President Clinton, members of the Little Rock Nine and me among others yesterday morning before the ceremony. Being around him during the recording of his show Tuesday morning was both a privilege and a pleasure.
Q. What was the best souvenir?
A. Coca Cola produced a commemorative bottle that was distributed at Monday night’s gala. (I wonder what they are selling for on EBay…)
Q. What was the Little Rock Nine Foundation Gala like?
A. Bill Clinton gave a tremendous speech. Carlotta Walls Lanier did an incredible job planning this event. Had it not been for all the Little Rock Nine speaking at the commemoration ceremony, the highly successful and enjoyable gala might have overshadowed it.
Q. Who were the unsung stars of the 50th?
A. Cynthia East, who helped coordinate the Little Rock Nine Foundation Gala; Sally Porter who coordinated the volunteers; and Virgil Miller who co-chaired the 50th anniversary commission and showed years of remarkable leadership and patience. Also, Nikolai DiPippa, who set up the Little Rock Nine press conference and numerous other Clinton School events related to the 50th.
Q. Will there be a 60th?
A. I would hope so. In the meantime, I know on the 51st–September 25, 2008–John DiPippa, Associate Dean of the Bowen Law School and I have already had discussions about hosting a joint program. Next year will also be the 50th anniversary of the founding of Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC)—this group of brave women who fought to reopen LR schools in 1958-59 deserves to be honored. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke at the WEC’s 40th ceremony in 1998.
Q. Would you have changed anything?
A. Yes, upon reflection, I would have organized a tribute to Senator Dale Bumpers for his legislative achievement in making Central High a National Historic Site. In addition to its historical and civil rights significance, the Little Rock Central High National Historic Site has been an economic and tourism boom to the city and state. Mayor Woodrow Mann, who was a voice of reason in 1957, also deserves more recognition.
Q. What did you think about the Renaud brothers documentary about Little Rock Central 50 years later?
A. I liked it. I know others who didn’t, but I personally thought it was well done and balanced. It spoke true to Little Rock’s challenges in housing and the work that still remains in closing the achievement gap at Central High. Regarding Central, I think Principal Nancy Rousseau is doing a great job. Central is an inner city urban high school which is thriving, and Nancy is a class act. But if you haven’t seen the documentary, I encourage you to do so.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Over the past several days I have been asked frequently what I thought about Columbia University inviting President Ahmadinejad of Iran to speak on campus, providing him with a “public platform.” I agree with Columbia’s decision to have him speak. The thing I found most troubling was reports that some Columbia officials treated him rudely. If Columbia was going to invite him to campus, school officials should have treated him with respect or should not have invited him in the first place.
Columbia has a distinct advantage of being located in New York City, home of the United Nations. Attracting speakers in New York is easier than attracting them to Little Rock, though I’m very proud of what we are accomplishing here at the Clinton School. For example, Click here to check out our diverse and interesting October schedule.
Although nothing quite as controversial as President Ahmadinejad, we’ve had some objections about our speakers. Some on the “left” objected to conservative law professor and “torture memo” author John Yoo, and some on the “right” objected to athiest scientist Richard Dawkins. Some questioned why we would bring in the Syrian Ambassador or the Washington Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera. Karl Rove attracted a great deal of attention as did Islamic activist Irshad Manji. Not surprisingly, all gave outstanding presentations and many were able to experience a wide variety of views, even if they disagreed with them. All were treated with respect–proving people can debate and challenge views without being disrespectful.
When I was an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas in the late 60’s and early 70’s there were objections to inviting Muhammad Ali, former secretary of State Dean Rusk and the theatrical production “Hair” to campus. They came, and I enjoyed them all. Criticism of campus speakers, I’ve concluded, is not new and comes with the educational territory. Stay tuned for our future speaker schedules, and we always welcome your suggestions and comments—pro and con.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Of all the events I attended throughout the 50th anniversary commemoration of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, none was more enjoyable than the Clinton School hosting Tavis Smiley and watching his radio show broadcasted from the Clinton Presidential Library this morning.
Among his guests this morning were Bill Clinton and Little Rock nine members: Elizabeth Eckford, Ernie Green, Gloria Ray Kalmark, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Minnijean Brown Trickey. Joel Anderson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and I also had the pleasure to talk about our respective programs.
Several Clinton School students were in attendance, and they had yet another personal opportunity to interact with Clinton, Smiley and members of the Little Rock Nine.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD –
*President Bill Clinton and members of the Little Rock Nine viewed the Emancipation Proclamation as a group on Monday evening Sept. 24. Following the viewing, each of the Nine and their families had their pictures made with the President in the Oval Office of the Presidential Library. President Clinton then spent about 10 minutes rearranging and tinkering with the personal items on his desk. The Clinton School students saw the Emancipation Proclamation Sunday evening. Today is the last day the historic document will be on display in Little Rock. It will then return to Washington for safe and secure storage in a vault at the National Archives.
*At the dedication of the Central High Visitor Center Monday morning, Elizabeth Eckford’s speech about the indignities she and the other eight endured at Central High was captivating. You could have heard a pin drop among the 2,000 or so in attendance. It was one of the best presentations I’ve heard about what really happened inside Central High in 1957. Someone should put the video of her remarks on YouTube.
*At Monday morning’s Political Animals Club breakfast featuring Ernie Green, Green choked up when he called out the names of the Little Rock Nine. When he finished his speech, I asked him for the original copy which he signed and gave to me for donation to the Central High collection in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS). The speech was also videotaped for the David and Barbara Pryor Center for oral and visual history at the University of Arkansas.
*At the Little Rock Foundation gala Monday night, Governor Mike Beebe touted the Arkansas Repertory Theater’s production “It Happened in Little Rock.” I couldn’t agree more. Go see it before it closes Sept. 30.
*Tonight, the documentary “Little Rock Central High: 50 Years Later” airs on HBO. Produced by Little Rock natives Brent and Craig Renaud, the film takes a current look at Central High and the City of Little Rock. Having seen it twice and having participated in a discussion about it at Harvard’s Kennedy School, I predict it will generate spirited reaction—both pro and con.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – The Clinton School hosted the Little Rock Nine Foundation’s 50th anniversary opening news conference this afternoon. All nine members gathered in the school’s reading room before proceeding to the Commons area which was packed with local, state, national and international media. Other than the Little Rock Nine, their families and members of the 50th anniversary coordinating committee, Clinton School students were also others in attendance. It was a very special and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them.
Before the event began, Clinton School student Chance Williams greeted Little Rock Nine Member Carlotta Walls Lanier. Ms. Lanier had recommended Chance attend the Clinton School, and they had a great visit catching up. The Clinton School’s Jonathan Mwaba was one of the few assigned to serve as a personal assistant to the Nine and is escorting them during all the events.
Having helped coordinate the 40th anniversary commemoration in 1997, it was a pleasure for me to reunite with all the Little Rock Nine.
We shared great stories about 1997 as well as the events that have transpired since then. We were honored to have all the Little Rock Nine at the Clinton School. Look for a signed poster noting this day to soon be on display at the school. See a photo below:
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – The Cox Creative Center in the Rivermarket, part of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and within walking distance of the Clinton School, is hosting an art exhibit, Looking Back-Looking Ahead, commemorating 50 years of integration and featuring over 150 Little Rock Central High School students. I toured the exhibit Saturday afternoon, and it is spectacular.
Under the leadership of Lynn Smith, chair of Central’s fine arts department, and with the support of Reita Walker Miller, CALS art administrator, this exhibit features art of over 150 students. Hats off to Principal Nancy Rousseau for her vision, to Mr. Smith for his leadership, to Ms. Miller for her enthusiasm and to the Central students for their talent.
It will be on display through October, and I highly recommend it. Most of the art is for sale too.
Some of my favorites: Flower Power, an acrylic about the attack on African American journalist Alex Wilson by Will Barker; an untitled mixed media piece by Greta James featuring soldiers and a white boy; The Irony of the American Flag, digital media by Jessica Boyd; an untitled oil by Sophie Yan showing Elizabeth Eckford being taunted; Don’t Let Them See You Cry, a prismacolor portrait of Elizabeth Eckford by Kate Trotter; and Soldiers at Work, a graphite by Randy Rankin. Artist Rankin is also the quarterback of the highly-ranked Central football team.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Chris Koor Garang was seven years old when he fled from his village in the Akon area of South Sudan in 1988 during an attack by government-backed militia. After wandering through Africa for four years and then growing up without family in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, he came to the United States in 2001 as one of the 4,000 “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
This weekend Garang met with Clinton School students and described his experiences including his return to Sudan where he was reunited with his parents whom he believed were dead. Now a licensed practical nurse, Garang is living in Tucson, AZ and works with others to bring medical supplies and mosquito nets to Sudan. He hopes someday to help open a medical clinic there.
Garang is in Little Rock to participate in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.
Since Clinton School students have worked in the Sudan and other African countries on their international public service projects, Garang’s presentation was of personal interest and significance.
We were honored to have him with us.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Clinton School students, faculty and staff got a sneak preview of the Emancipation Proclamation Friday night at the Clinton Presidential Library. The historic document, along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and many other records, is part of the collection held by the National Archive and Records Administration in Washington D.C.
I was honored to join Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States and Governor Mike Beebe in unveiling the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. While being part of the unveiling was personally very meaningful, it was equally rewarding to see our students be among the very first to view the document on its four day stay at the Clinton Library. This preview represented another exceptional opportunity for those who study at the Clinton School.
My thanks to the the National Archvies, the Clinton Library and the Clinton Foundation for making it possible. Having the Emancipation Proclamation here during the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School is a thrill. A special thank you to the Archivist for coming to Little Rock.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – The Clinton School hosted a town hall meeting Thursday featuring Governors Mike Beebe of Arkansas; Phil Bredesen of Tennessee; Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. With Clinton School students asking the questions, the Governors addressed a wide variety of issues including education, children’s health, biofuels and immigration.
The town hall gathering was an extraordinary opportunity for Clinton School students to interact with four of the nation’s brightest and most progressive Governors. It represents another reason why the Clinton School offers a unique and special educational experience.
We are grateful to Governor Beebe and his staff for making it possible.