Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered opening remarks today at a roundtable discussion on educational success for black men and boys, hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which was issued on May 17, 1954. Below are his remarks prepared for delivery:
“Good afternoon. We are here at a moment both joyous and mournful. We come together on the sixtieth anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which recognized the injustice of segregated schools for our children. But we also assemble on a day when millions throughout our country and across the world are bidding farewell to Maya Angelou, an extraordinary American and educator who put the pain of Jim Crow and the hope of civil rights and equality into words that reached deeply into the soul and stirred our hearts.
“In her 1993 poem ‘On the Pulse of the Morning,’ recited at President Clinton’s inauguration, Dr. Angelou reminded us that we must accept our past if we are to choose a better future. She wrote:
“‘History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.’
“Brown v. Board of Education was pivotal, in part, because it affirmed that the divisions from our past must inevitably yield to a future where those divisions are a thing of the past. However, we all know that the segregation of our public schools did not end in 1954. Legal segregation has given way to informal segregation. The poverty line in our neighborhoods still traces, in many cities, the color line. And our system of public education, which ought to be the best in the world, is leaving many young people – and many African American boys in particular – behind.
“So it is now up to us, today, to gather the courage necessary to ensure that the past remains the past, and that we can move forward as a nation to secure a better future for our people – a future where every child has the same opportunity to learn, to thrive, to feel confident in himself or herself that they can make it in America and pursue the American dream.
“We cannot do so by gutting federal investments in education, as some in Congress would have us do. Nor by eroding the system of affirmative action in college admissions that has helped narrow the gap in higher education achievement. Nor can we do so by making it harder for our students’ parents to find jobs and earn a decent living.
“That’s why House Democrats, with the help of the Congressional Black Caucus, will continue to fight for policies that expand opportunity for all and against cuts to programs that assist low-income families. Our mission is to follow the sage advice of Frederick Douglass, who once said: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’
“That must be our mission as we move forward.”