Liberal Education

A Letter from William F. Winter

Honorary Co-Chair of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Enterprise

I have always believed that the way to greater racial equity in this country runs right through the schoolhouse door. In too many cases, children of color are robbed of their full potential and well-being by an educational system that does not value them equally and that hides embarrassing truths about our past. If we can build an educational system that confronts these truths and provides equal opportunities to all children, irrespective of skin color, religion, or ethnic origin, we will be on the path to equity and justice for all and to the healing that we all so desperately need.

I have seen in my own state of Mississippi how unequal educational opportunity hurts all of us, by dividing us and by weakening our productivity in an increasingly competitive economic environment. And I have seen how equalizing educational opportunity benefits all of us—helping to increase our economic productivity and stability and to heal the wounds of the past. I have tried over the years to articulate this message to all who would listen—and to many who didn’t want to listen. As governor, later as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race, and now through the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at my alma mater, the University of Mississippi, I have seen how the truth of this message has resonated with people all over the country and from all walks of life.

That is why I am so proud to be involved with, and to serve as an honorary co-chair for, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise. The foundation’s focus on creating the conditions for all children to have an equal opportunity to thrive reflects what I believe to be the key to our future economic strength and moral integrity. And the underlying mission of the TRHT enterprise, to eliminate the false belief in a hierarchy of human value based on superficial physical characteristics such as skin color and facial features, is absolutely crucial to creating such a future—a future of which we all can be proud.

The generosity of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in devoting this issue of its journal to the TRHT effort is a huge step toward that future and is in keeping with AAC&U’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Not only is AAC&U a valuable TRHT partner, it also was a valuable partner during my time on President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race, leading the way on one of the Advisory Board’s key initiatives—a campus week of dialogue on race in which, thanks in great part to AAC&U’s efforts, more than six hundred college campuses participated and thousands of students were exposed to perspectives they had not previously understood.

With this issue of Liberal Education, AAC&U is opening the door for the TRHT message, that we must learn to see ourselves in each other, to be heard by the most important and valuable audience—our future leaders and their teachers. The information and insights presented in the various articles will encourage and inspire students, faculty, and administrators to become engaged in meaningful ways in this vital effort. This will speed the journey to our destination, a society in which we cherish the differences that make each individual unique and embrace the many ways in which we are all alike and that bind us together in our common humanity.

With support from partners like AAC&U, we will succeed, we will all be better for it, and our children and grandchildren and those yet unborn will reap the greatest rewards. 

William F. Winter served as governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984.

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