Former Governor Speaks at DSU
Public education and racial reconciliation were the topics of discussion as Gov. William Winter took the stage to a standing ovation at Delta State University Thursday night and held the crowd in the palm of his hand as the inaugural speaker in Delta State’s Colloquia series.
Winter, Mississippi’s 57th governor from 1980 to 1984, spoke frankly but passionately about the state of education in the Mississippi Delta. He applauded how far the Delta’s public education system has come in the last 40 years but reminded the audience that this is just the beginning.
“We must not rest on our laurels, as we still have a long way to go,” explained Winter. “The task before us is more difficult than any before.”
Winter pointed to the lack of a comprehensive, state-funded pre-kindergarten system as a possible answer to the Delta’s educational woes.
“The period between birth and eligibility for entry into kindergarten constitutes the most critical years in the development of a human being’s brain,” said Winter. “People that know a whole lot more about it than I do say that by the time a kid is four or five years old, the development of the brain is pretty well determined.”
In an answer to a question posed by Cody Shumaker, principal of Brooks Elementary School in Duncan, as to how the state could accomplish the goal of establishing a state-wide pre-k system, Winter said that it has to start with public support as well as with intellectual leadership from institutions such as DSU.
“Let us all be advocates with our friends, with our neighbors so that the people who push the buttons down there in Jackson will push the button so we can have a systematic pre-K education,” urged Winter.
The other great challenge that Winter addressed was racial reconciliation. Winter said that he believes race remains the most difficult and intractable issue that the Delta and our nation faces.
“We still have not come to terms with the deep-seeded, little understood and usually repressed feelings that are derived from our different backgrounds,” explained Winter.
In order to further the reconciliation, Winter said that white people must acknowledge their complicity in slavery while black people must be able to forgive even while still remembering the horrors of the past.
“There must come a time in the lives of all of us where we realize we’re all in this together,” declared Winter. “It would be a tragedy indeed if we let divisions over race diminish the quality of our lives as it has in the past.”
The honorary speaker then moved the evening along with a question and answer session where he took questions from a variety of individuals ranging from high school and college students to the previously mentioned elementary school principle. The evening concluded with a reception.
Delta State’s next colloquium will be a week-long affair and take place from Oct. 27-Nov. 1 with each night highlighting an individual college or school of the university. The focal points will be the schools of nursing, education and human sciences, arts and sciences, and business.