Today is Saturday, February 27, 2021
Black History Month comes to an end this weekend as we celebrate today’s
94th Anniversary of College Debate Competition between Thurgood Marshall’s Lincoln University Team and Gilbert Nurick’s Penn Staters (won by PSU).  This was the first debate between historically Black and White Colleges.  Marshall and Nurick both went on to successful careers in the law that marked future firsts, Marshall as the first African-American United States Supreme Court Justice and Nurick as the first Jewish President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, both firsts happening in 1967.
If you want to read about the history of Black History Month (and how many of you would correctly guess that President Gerald Ford officially designated the month-long celebration?), Oprah Winfrey is a good place to start:
Her story shares a quote from President Obama: "Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history, or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes," President Barack Obama said in a 2016 speech. "It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America. It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go."
Knowing where we need to go as a country today is hard to say in the face of an ongoing pandemic, the January attack on our Capitol, a bitterly contested election, and continuing confrontations laying bare systematic racism.  Obama’s answer:
And that’s the thing about our democracy.  It takes all of us.  It's important that we have responsive elected officials.   Supreme Court appointments are important.  But ultimately, everything comes down to the constant perseverance, the courage, the tenacity, the vision of citizens like you, making sure not only you exercise your right to vote, but that in between elections you are part of a constant movement in your local communities, or at the national level, or at an international level, to bring about the kind of change from which all of us in this room have benefited because of the labors of somebody who came before us.   
America is a nation that is a constant work in progress.  That's why we are exceptional.  We don't stop.  There’s a gap -- there always will be -- between who we are and the “perfect union,” that ideal that we see.  But what makes us exceptional, what makes us Americans is that we fight wars and pass laws, and we march, and we organize unions, and we stage protests, and that gap gets smaller over time.  And it's that effort to form a “more perfect union” that marks us as a people. 
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