In the days and weeks leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, countless forums, conferences, and reports have been held celebrating the event, evaluating how far the country has come, and stressing the progress that we as a nation have yet to achieve.
Appearing at two separate events celebrating the Brown v. Board anniversary, President Bush and Senator John Kerry praised the racial progress the country has made over the last fifty years, but stressed that the nation continues to fail African-American and Hispanic citizens.
President Bush spoke at the grand opening for a historic site at the two-story brick Monroe Elementary School, one of four segregated elementary schools that black children were forced to attend prior to the Brown ruling:
In many ways, the events of those years seemed long ago. We tend to think of them as distant dramas of a different country. Yet, segregation is a living memory, and many still carry its scars. The habits of racism in America have not all been broken. The habits of respect must be taught to every generation. . . . Many African Americans with no inheritance but their character need access to capital and the chance to own and build for the future. And while our schools are no longer segregated by law, they are still not equal in opportunity and excellence. Justice requires more than a place in school. Justice requires that every school teach every child in America.
Senator Kerry spoke on the steps of the Kansas statehouse four hours earlier:
Brown began to tear down the walls of inequality. The next great challenge is to put up a ladder of opportunity for all. . . . We haven’t met the promise of Brown when a fourth-grade Hispanic child is only one-third as likely to read at the same level as a fourth-grade white child. When only 50 percent of African Americans are finishing high school, and only 18 percent are graduating from college. Our children will never have equal opportunity unless, once and for all, we close the ever-widening achievement gap.
President Bush’s remarks are available at
Senator Kerry’s remarks are available at http://www.johnkerry.com/pressroom/speeches/spc_2004_0517.html.