Commentary by Gen. Charles C. Krulak,
n this issue, we’ve asked BSC alumni, students, and
friends to look back at the 50th anniversary of 1963, a
transformational year for Birmingham, for Birmingham-
Southern, and for the country as a whole. During that
era, this city became a watershed not just for civil rights,
but for a broader
movement for
human rights—a
struggle still
raging in parts of
the world today.
I’m sure many
of us feel
disconnected and
helpless when we
hear the stories
of protests in
public squares,
of families being
ripped apart,
and of people
fighting for their
freedom across
the globe. But if
there’s one thing
we’ve learned from
our history, it’s that even small actions can make a difference.
Take Marti Turnipseed, the young Birmingham-Southern
student you’ll read about in these pages. She chose to make
a difference. That choice wasn’t easy in 1963. Standing up,
marching in the streets, befriending someone of another race
brought risks. For some, the consequences included jail,
beatings, even death. Others faced the loss of their livelihood,
their friends, and their dreams.
Back then, college officials, under pressure from local
authorities, forced that brave young woman to leave campus
when she wouldn’t promise not to break Birmingham’s
segregation laws. Fortunately, they allowed her to return to the
Hilltop about a year later to finish her degree.
“She was one individual who made a statement and a
difference,” Birmingham Mayor William Bell told our students
on a recent visit to campus. “That’s the power that you have
in you, and that’s the
opportunity that you
have any time you
think someone is being
denied their rights.”
Today, we try to
encourage our students
to act as Marti did.
Here on the Hilltop,
they don’t just learn
facts and figures, they
dig into tough issues.
They learn how to
connect lessons from
different fields, to
analyze information, to
look into their hearts,
and to come up with
their own conclusions
about wrong and right.
We know that now more than ever, BSC students are prepared
to take on a leadership role, no matter what issues they choose
to tackle.
Today, in 2013, we’re celebrating the progress we have made
since 1963 as a campus, a city, a state, and a nation. We are
so proud of Marti Turnipseed’s example, we’re inviting the
entire community to retrace her steps April 24 in a two-mile
march from campus to downtown Birmingham. Mayor Bell
and I will be out in front leading BSC students, faculty, staff,
alumni, neighbors, and friends, and we hope you will join us
to celebrate how far we have come and to show the world just
how far we can go.
Civil rights protesters at the downtown Trailways bus terminal.
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