School of Government Convo brings in Civil Rights icon and West Point grad
Conversational barriers were brought down and discussion opened up on how to achieve unity in a time of great national divisiveness during Convo Select Feb. 18, hosted by the Helms School of Government.
The theme of the Convo Select was the U.S. motto E Pluribus Unum — out of
Clarence Henderson, president of the Fredrick Douglass Foundation, and Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Hunt, joined interim dean Ron Miller and Mark Acres, director of projects and initiatives, to share their stories, answer questions and speak about the current disunity in the country.
Henderson, a Civil Rights icon, started the conversation by sharing his experiences of living through the Jim Crow Laws and participating in the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit in Feb. 2, 1960. Because of that sit in, Henderson and the three other college freshmen received national attention, exposing the unequal treatment of black people in the U.S.
While sharing his story, Henderson urged students that life is not about where they come from, but where they will go. For Henderson, the direction of his life to bring unity to the U.S. outweighed where he had come from.
“If any of you decide to participate in a movement because the Constitution says we can, … make sure you understand the movement you are participating in, and make sure it is a cause you believe in,” Henderson said.
Henderson travels around the country speaking on the importance of unity, saying the country is better together than it is apart. He also urged students to ask God to reveal his purpose for their lives.
“Here is this little unassuming kid who had the opportunity because God called me out to do certain things,” Henderson said. “If you have not talked to God about what your purpose is here on this earth, you need to do that to make sure you are going in the right direction because none of us are here by accident.”
Hunt spoke after Henderson, first thanking Henderson and his peers for the sacrifices they made to give people a chance to celebrate their differences.
Hunt, a lead strategist for the Fredrick Douglass Institute, led a conversation about how people say they want racial reconciliation, but their words have no actions behind them.
“You hear a lot of these folks talking about racial reconciliation saying, ‘We need healing in the country’ but what is really interesting is that nothing really ever changes,” Hunt said. “A lot of them are taking what is really the church’s mission, they take racial reconciliation and healing, and they strip God out of it, then wonder why it doesn’t work.”
Hunt said it is the responsibility of the church to unify the country. Yet the church is not taking the action needed to bring healing.
“It is hard for the church to lead the way in unity when our own churches are so divided. I don’t mean just racially, but I mean in denominations,” Hunt said. “We think that we are all these different classes of Christians.”
Hunt asked how a country could unite around their flag if they cannot first unite around the cross.
During his time at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Hunt said they once tried to bring the all Christian cadets together for a night for prayer. Later, they were able to start a cadet prayer room dedicated to 24-hour prayer. Hunt said it still operates today.
“There are no political solutions to the human condition,” Hunt said. “The issue of racism and division in our country is a sin problem and the only solution is the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Hunt shared practical steps for bringing about change. He said students will make an impact when they know their identity in Christ, value the role of family and community, stay loyal to truth and righteousness and are not afraid to mobilize when God tells them to go out.
After each speaker had a chance to tell their stories, the conversation transitioned to questions from students. Both men responded to questions about how students could work towards unifying the country.
“We have to respect each other as human beings,” Henderson said. “I am still bringing unity to this country so they will know there is only one race, and that is the human race.”