STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Sixty years ago today, Mississippi State University was still a little over a decade away from the historic and peaceful admission of Richard E. Holmes as MSU's first African-American student on July 19, 1965 - and a young man named Donald Mayfield Brown had not yet been born.
But the way to equity in academic opportunity for African-American young people was substantially paved by the decision of the Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision that dismantled the "separate but equal" doctrine for public education and the so-called "Jim Crow" laws that institutionalized that doctrine in the South.
President Barack Obama on Friday commemorated the 60th anniversary of the school desegregation decision during an event at the White House. United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin referred to the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision in her commencement speech as part of her challenge to the students. Cousin, who was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People, told MSU graduates that they were approaching their own moments of destiny.
"Each day requires choices that mold society. You're minutes from the next milestone in your life," Cousin said. "I am confident that each and every one of you here today has been well prepared by MSU, by your parents and by your classmates to make these choices and to take over the reins as our next generation."
One member of Cousin's commencement audience was MSU 2014 Rhodes Scholar Donald Mayfield "Field" Brown of Vicksburg, the English and philosophy double-major who earlier this year became the university's first Rhodes Scholar since 1911. Brown plans to pursue masters of studies degrees in both American literature and modern English literature.
Brown is MSU's first African-American Rhodes Scholar. Each year, 32 young Americans are chosen as Rhodes Scholars on the basis of demonstrated scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and the common good, and leadership potential.
For more information on Mississippi State University, visit www.msstate.edu.
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