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America's Fight Against Terrorism Can Draw Lessons from Civil Rights Movement, Vernon Jordan '57 Tells OGW Convocation

America's Fight Against Terrorism Can Draw Lessons from Civil Rights Movement, Vernon Jordan '57 Tells OGW Convocation

October 27, 2001

October 27, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. -- Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Fighting Terrorism" 731KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Fighting Terrorism" 570KB] "Terrorism is not new to black people," legendary civil rights and political leader Vernon Jordan told a crowd of students, alumni, faculty and staff at his alma mater, DePauw University, this morning. "But what we've always known is that you cannot let it turn you around. And that is what I believe about September 11th that we as Americans cannot let it turn us around -- we gotta keep on walking, we gotta keep on talking, making the world safe for democracy."

(Other Clips: Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Subpoenaed" 758KB] Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "More DePauw Memories" 276KB]; YouTube) Jordan, who also served as president of the National Urban League, spoke at a convocation marking Old Gold Weekend, DePauw's homecoming, 5888and to celebrate the release of his new memoir, Vernon Can Read!. The book has landed him in the national spotlight of CBS, NBC, NPR and Newsweek, among others in the past week (read more and hear the NPR interview, with several DePauw stories, by clicking here; the Newsweek story is summarized in this story).

Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "DePauw Today" 233KB] "It's wonderful to be here, because DePauw has become a different and better place," Jordan said, recalling that he was the only black in is freshman class at a time when there were just five African Americans on campus, and no members of the faculty nor administration were persons of color. By comparison, today nearly 13% of DePauw's student body is multicultural; DePauw's full time faculty has the same percentage of minority representation. Jordan credits the leadership of President Bottoms, whose initiatives to diversify DePauw have increased the minority enrollment from 3.5% in the mid 1980s to today's levels. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Minority" 225KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "More" 171KB]

"And I want to tell you, I like that. That's good, and I congratulate Bob, the Trustees and all of you. That pleases me so much," Jordan said. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Stunned" 176KB]

Jordan told of his father's amazement when he brought a white friend from DePauw to stay at the Jordan's Georgia home; of serving 93529Richard Nixon while a student waiter then later being invited years later (as head of the National Urban League) to meet with President Nixon at the White House; and of the DePauw professors who befriended, educated, encouraged and inspired him.

In documenting how far America has come since his youth, Jordan remembered his then 70 year old grandfather telling him that what he wanted most in life was to "go to the bathroom indoors where it's warm, just once." Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Creature Comfort" 693KB]

Jordan says, today, "My grandfather, when asked that question, did not say that he wanted to learn to read and write... go to the library... sit at the lunch counter (or) register to vote. His life was so circumvented and circumscribed by the reality of segregation and dehumanization, that his ultimate aspiration was a basic creature comfort."Vernon Can Read!, the author hopes, will instruct and inspire his 8 grandchildren and others who may not realize what it was like to grow up, in the segregated south. Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Instruct & Inspire" 284KB]

In concluding his remarks, Jordan pointed at his sport coat and said, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "The Flag" 918KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "The Flag" 594KB] "I do not wear this flag in my lapel for symbolic reasons. I wear it because I love this country. And I believe in democracy, and I believe in the free markets. And I believe as I believed as a young civil rights worker that it was 'worth fighting for and it's worth dying for, and I believe that America today is worth fighting for and worth dying for." Jordan's remarks were followed by a long standing ovation from the Kresge audience, and an embrace from DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms.

Vernon Jordan, the 1969 recipient of DePauw's Old Gold Goblet, later signed copies of his new book for the appreciative Greencastle audience. In fact, the crowd was so moved that all available copies of the book on campus sold out. He began the day with a morning reception with students, alumni and faculty at the Union Building.