Straight Talk by Baker Kurrus, June 24, 2016

" Eternal vigilance is not just the price of liberty.  It is also the price of freedom and equality. "

I have been a poor correspondent lately, primarily due to the daily pressures of this job.  I am under contract until June 30, 2016.  I intend to press on until the finish.

Picture of Joan Baker Kurrus, the mother of Baker KurrusOn Mother's Day, I spent some time thinking about my mother, Joan Baker Kurrus.  She died before I got out of law school.  She was always loving and supportive, even when perhaps a more unbiased person would have seen my flaws.  She convinced me that I could do just about anything if I did my best.  I can still remember her taking my brother, sister and me to the shallow end of the swimming pool when we were small children.  She didn’t want us to have any fear of the water.  She enrolled us in Red Cross swimming lessons when we were old enough to go.  I found out a bit later, maybe when I was six or seven, that she couldn’t swim, and that she was deathly afraid of the water.  She didn’t want us to live with her fears.

My mother was not college-educated, but she took a correspondence course on children’s literature so that she could help us with our reading.  She had wonderful friends, Betty, Rusty and Betty.  They played bridge, and tried to learn to speak French because they loved the sound of the language.  Mom was born too soon to be everything she might have been in different times.  She was engaged politically and socially, and she always tried to help those in greatest need.  She grew up in Pine Bluff during segregation.  She and my dad knew it was reprehensible, and they never countenanced any kind of discrimination.  They threw kinfolks out of our house who used the wrong words.

My mother’s name is etched in the glass at the Terry House, where in 1958, she and a group of women, known as the Women’s Emergency Committee, worked tirelessly  to reopen Little Rock’s schools after then Governor Orval Faubus had shut the system down.  They and other courageous people, black and white, worked to stop the outrageous purge of teachers who had supported integration.  Courageous people like Annie Abrams.  I saw Miss Annie at a charity fundraiser night that was held recently at the Terry House.  If I ever disappoint Miss Annie, it will be a very sad day for me.

Miss Abrams, the WEC, and many others who stood for the right things during those times, are heroes.  We have had a lot of heroes in our school district history, most especially the Little Rock Nine and those who supported them.  Daisy Gatson Bates, L.C. Bates and others worked and sacrificed so that we could endeavor to have a fair and open system.  There is not enough space or time to say thank you to all who should be mentioned, but there are books that detail the work which was done, and the people who did it.  We are all still on that journey.  Eternal vigilance is not just the price of liberty.  It is also the price of freedom and equality.

I made it home from law school for the Thanksgiving holiday in 1978.  Mom was very sick, andPicture of Yellow Flowers there was virtually no hope that she would recover.  I remember her sitting on our little deck and directing me, as only a mother can, to plant some flower bulbs that she had gotten somewhere.  She knew that she would not live long enough to see them bloom.  She died on February 1, 1979. Although she was gone, there were beautiful daffodils later that spring. 

I wish I could give a bouquet of those very flowers to every one of our marvelous educators who go about the planting every day.

Thanks for being focused in the face of uncertainty.  Thanks for being fearless.  Thanks for being courageous.  Thanks for planting.  My wish is that you may see the flowers bloom.


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