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Brown v. Board of Education

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. MORAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Topeka Board of Education.

In 1951, a door closed on Linda Brown when she was denied admission to an all-white public school in Topeka, Kansas. But on this day in 1954, a door opened for our nation. The Brown decision was the culmination of many desegregation cases. Previous court decisions had ruled that "separate but equal" was a valid policy.

By ruling in favor of Linda Brown, the Supreme Court helped America finally open its eyes and see that segregation is, in fact, wrong and does, in fact, perpetuate inequality. Through the plight of young Linda, a mere third-grader, Americans came to understand that separate is never equal.

While in law school, I was privileged to study under Paul Wilson. Earlier in his life. as a humor Kansas assistant attorney general, Professor Wilson was assigned to defend the Topeka Board of Education. He never suspected that he would end up arguing before the Supreme Court.

I would like to take a moment and pay tribute to Professor Wilson. His role in the Brown decision was a difficult one. He knew that segregation was wrong, but he was charged with the duty of defending the Topeka Board of Education. During his time at the University of Kansas, Professor Wilson wrote about the Brown decision and his recollections of that time period. In the classroom, he told my fellow students and me about his trip to Washington, D.C., and about being admitted to the Supreme Court bar. He said to us, "The decision issued in 1954 caused me, caused America, to realize that to argue the policy of separate but equal was to defend the indefensible." Professor Wilson's words, and the tales of experiences, have stayed with me.

We must never lose sight of the importance of Brown versus the Topeka Board of Education. This decision has set a higher standard for our schools and for our nation. Even today, disparities exist among groups of students, and we must continue working to ensure that all students are learning what they need to learn, and are receiving the kind of high-quality education they deserve.

As the father of two daughters, one in middle school and one in high school, I am thankful for the change that the Brown decision brought to the American education system and to our society. I am thankful that my daughters attend school in a country where all children are considered equal.

Our public schools today are rich in diversity because of the hard work of the NAACP, and the willingness of Linda Brown and her family to stand up for what is right. Because of the Brown decision, we are better able to foster understanding, tolerance, and morality in our young people.

I am proud to have been a part of establishing the Brown vs. Topeka 50th Anniversary Commission in 2001. Since its inception, the Commission has been preparing for this anniversary. Commission members have traveled all over the country, visiting the cities whose desegregation cases set the stage for Brown's success. The Commission has also encouraged many activities across the nation related to the anniversary, including an essay contest, a film and discussion series, and traveling museum exhibits.

I want to thank everyone who worked to make this anniversary so memorable and so historic. Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the late Oliver Brown, has worked tirelessly, not only for this anniversary, but also for educational equity everywhere. As cofounder of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, Mrs. Brown Henderson has helped establish a living tribute to the plaintiffs and attorneys involved in the Brown case.

Today, President Bush visited Kansas for the first time. The President spoke this morning in Topeka at the dedication of the National Park Service's $11.3 million historic site in the Monroe School, the former all-black school that Linda Brown attended before the 1954 Supreme Court ruling. I want to thank President Bush and the city of Topeka for helping to make this anniversary worthy of the event it commemorates.

We cannot forget that our work is not yet done. We have celebrated and remembered, but we must do more. We must recommit ourselves to the philosophy behind the Brown decision-to the elimination of bias and the changing of society for the better. We must continue working to provide equal opportunities for all. We must make a fresh commitment to this Nation's children.

Colleagues, I trust we can be of one voice tonight. Let us join together in our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision and in our renewed commitment to our children.

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