New Haven, Ct. – Amid a bomb scare Saturday afternoon, formerU.S. first lady and current senator, Hillary R. Clinton, deliveredthe keynote address of Howard School of Law and YaleLawSchool’sjoint commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Boardof education decision.
Yale Law School Dean Anthony T. Kronman introduced Clinton andacknowledged her and Bill Clinton’s dedication during “theirpresidency,” to Brown and its promise.
Clinton openly expressed her support and dedication to greaterequality and integration in education.
“What institution in America is better than public school tocultivate the open-mindedness, so essential to unity in thismulticultural society,” Clinton said.
In linking Brown to the present, she relayed the irony of theUniversity of Michigan Affirmative Action case, and shared how shepassionately wrote President George W. Bush pleading for him toreconsider his stance toward the issue.
Clinton said that the Court failed to uphold Brown in primaryeducation, and now Affirmative Action is needed to uphold thestandards that Brown set.
Also in attendance at the conference were U.S. district judgesConstance Maker Motley and Robert L. Carter who were lawyers andparticipants in the Brown case.
In their advanced age, the lawyers shared their experiences withsegregation, being black lawyers and their relationships withCharles Hamilton Houston, pioneer of the case and the Howard Schoolof Law, and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
“This is an amazing experience to hear the actual thoughtprocess and strategy on a case we only read about,” AngelaPolk, third-year Howard law student, said. “Programs like thisgive us a sense of pride as Howard law students and energize us topick up were these great leaders left of.”
In addition to Clinton’s speech, the three-day event, attended bylaw students from all across the nation, allowed students toquestion highly acclaimed scholars as well as original litigatorsfrom the 50-year old Brown case. Panelists not only examined thecase, which occurred during some of the countries most segregatedtimes, but also analyzed the case’s relation to current statistics.They analyzed the effect of education on 48% of black males who areunemployed in New York, and the increasing achievement gap betweenblack and white students.
The underlying theme for the conference was the importance ofvoting towards change.
“The challenge for us is to link setbacks in courts to theelectoral process,” said Yale political science professor,Ange-Marie Hancock, Ph. D. “If we do not care, then we won’telect the right senators or presidents and we are not going to getthe right judicial appointments. Affirmative action, segregationand even the 2000 Presidential election are all results of poorelectoral participation.” Elaine Jones,President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense andEducational Fund, Inc kicked off the event with the openingaddress, in which she candidly told the crowd that ground had beenlost in the Brown case, and that the country could not afford tospend the next fifty years, as they had spent the last.