Recently, Clarence Henderson visited my daughter’s school. He was a participant in the Greensboro sit-ins, helping propel the civil rights movement forward. At that time, the act of sitting took tremendous courage. During Mr. Henderson’s speech he shared his experience in the movement and his continued involvement in the fight for civil justice. This was, and still is, a political movement.
During his speech, Mr. Henderson shared his current political positions, upsetting some teachers, students and parents. In protest, several teachers walked out of the auditorium — mid-speech and in front of all of the students. This, in turn, upset other teachers, students and parents.
I am upset that these teachers could not put aside their own political opinions in order to show respect to an invited speaker who is a civil rights icon. Mr. Henderson’s experience gives him insight worth hearing. The teachers should have listened and demonstrated to the very students they teach and preach tolerance to that an elder, with an important role in our shared history, can be heard respectfully.
Teachers have the responsibility of teaching that we can have different opinions and still hear each other out, and that each person comes to their opinions through their own experiences. I expect teachers to demonstrate courage.
If Mr. Henderson could sit while facing police and possible violence, my daughter’s teachers can sit while being challenged in their beliefs. I hope that we have learned from Martin Luther King Jr. and all of the other civil rights activists, like Mr. Henderson, that change comes with freedom to share and consider an opposing view. If we don’t have the courage to listen, then how can we learn, or teach?
Kimberly Filby, Southern Pines
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