Commemoration at Central | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Commemoration at Central

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2007 at 12:56 PM

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The rain held off for 50th celebration today, as a huge crowd turned out to see Bill Clinton, the Little Rock Nine, and others give talks. Deborah Mathis was the emcee. Mark Stodola kicked things off and discussed the difference between desegregation and integration. There's still room for progress towards integration, he said--a theme that several of the Nine took up in their remarks. It was a strong speech, if not a brief one--School Board President Katherine Mitchell, who spoke next, said that Stodola must not have gotten the same memo that she got: 3 minutes. (Stodola must be an easy punching bag. While commending him on his speech, Clinton quipped that when they worked together 33 years ago, Stodola couldn't string two words together if he wasn't telling a joke.)

Each of the Nine offered remarks. This was the first time each of them have given speeches on the same platform. Their talks ranged from the terse (Elizabeth Eckford) to the emotional (Gloria Ray Karlmark) to the downright hilarious (Jefferson Thomas). We've got video of each of the speeches--check back on our YouTube site later in the afternoon.

Clinton was entertaining as usual. After making some jokes about Virgil Miller's bright blue "integrated socks" and putting in a good word for Hillary, who sat next to him but didn't speak, he told the crowd to consider the debt they owed to the Nine. "They made me decide not just to have an opinion, but to have a conviction," he said.

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