Charreah Jackson, The Hilltop
April 04, 2004
New Haven, Ct. – Amid a bomb scare Saturday afternoon, former U.S. first lady and current senator, Hillary R. Clinton, delivered the keynote address of Howard School of Law and Yale Law School’s joint commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of education decision.
Yale Law School Dean Anthony T. Kronman introduced Clinton and acknowledged her and Bill Clinton’s dedication during “their presidency,” to Brown and its promise.
Clinton openly expressed her support and dedication to greater equality and integration in education.
“What institution in America is better than public school to cultivate the open-mindedness, so essential to unity in this multicultural society,” Clinton said.
In linking Brown to the present, she relayed the irony of the University of Michigan Affirmative Action case, and shared how she passionately wrote President George W. Bush pleading for him to reconsider his stance toward the issue.
Clinton said that the Court failed to uphold Brown in primary education, and now Affirmative Action is needed to uphold the standards that Brown set.
Also in attendance at the conference were U.S. district judges Constance Maker Motley and Robert L. Carter who were lawyers and participants in the Brown case.
In their advanced age, the lawyers shared their experiences with segregation, being black lawyers and their relationships with Charles Hamilton Houston, pioneer of the case and the Howard School of Law, and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
“This is an amazing experience to hear the actual thought process and strategy on a case we only read about,” Angela Polk, third-year Howard law student, said. “Programs like this give us a sense of pride as Howard law students and energize us to pick up were these great leaders left of.”
In addition to Clinton’s speech, the three-day event, attended by law students from all across the nation, allowed students to question highly acclaimed scholars as well as original litigators from the 50-year old Brown case. Panelists not only examined the case, which occurred during some of the countries most segregated times, but also analyzed the case’s relation to current statistics. They analyzed the effect of education on 48% of black males who are unemployed in New York, and the increasing achievement gap between black and white students.
The underlying theme for the conference was the importance of voting towards change.
“The challenge for us is to link setbacks in courts to the electoral process,” said Yale political science professor, Ange-Marie Hancock, Ph. D. “If we do not care, then we won’t elect the right senators or presidents and we are not going to get the right judicial appointments. Affirmative action, segregation and even the 2000 Presidential election are all results of poor electoral participation.” Elaine Jones, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc kicked off the event with the opening address, in which she candidly told the crowd that ground had been lost in the Brown case, and that the country could not afford to spend the next fifty years, as they had spent the last.