Carlotta Walls

I had the extreme pleasure of being able to hear Carlotta Walls speak at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this past week. Carlotta was one of the Little Rock Nine who integrated a public high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. She told us her story of what is was like to grow up in a “Jim Crow environment” and how she fought for her access to equal opportunities when it came to her education. It was crazy for me to be able to listen to a person speak who had been so influential and had lived through such hard times in our country. I think that it is all too easy to dismiss those people as names in a textbook, but when it is a real person standing in front of you, it is extremely powerful.

 

The most important point that I took away from her speech was from a story that she told about her teachers. She had one teacher who made going to school so difficult. She was discriminatory and rude. Carlotta also had a biology teacher who treated her equally and fair just like all the other students. She described how great of an impact her biology teacher had on her. Then the twist came. The biology teacher was the son of the first teacher I mentioned. Carlotta described this as the son taking the best pieces of his mother and leaving the rest behind. This hit me hard as I thought about how much influence parents can have on their children, and can that be a negative thing? I think that our generation is really at a turning point. It is obvious that change needs to be made in our country because we are still stuck in a discriminatory rut. My parents are some of the most important people in my life, but I know that I need to form my own beliefs and opinions because my parents aren’t perfect; they aren’t always right. This is what I believe our generation needs: a deep look at our own values in order to determine how our country should move forward. Take the best aspects of what our parents have taught us, but move forward from that.

 

Listening to Carlotta speak was one of the most powerful experiences that I’ve had in college. If opportunities similar to this one arise at your school, please take them. Value the ability and the privilege that we have as students to learn from the past and learn how to move forward.