U.S. Attorney General Confident in UM Students’ Ability to Lead

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the 2012 Honors College Convocation

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (left) answers questions from Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzales about various topics, including section five of the Voting Rights Act, the civil rights of Arab-Americans in a post-9/11 world and same-sex marriage. Holder spoke at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College fall convocation Thursday evening at the Ford Center on the University of Mississippi campus. UM photo by Nathan Latil.

Eric H. Holder Jr. speaks at Honors College fall convocation

OXFORD, Miss. – Students have a solemn obligation and breathtaking opportunity to continue the unfinished work of civil rights, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday night (Sept. 27) at the University of Mississippi.


Holder’s keynote address at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s annual fall convocation, “1962-2012: A Reflection on Civil Rights in America,” continued the commemoration of the university’s golden anniversary of integration.


The attorney general said it was a privilege to join so many people in celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s admission at Ole Miss – and rededicating to the continuing struggle for equal rights, equal opportunity and equal justice.


“For more than 160 years, this campus and its students have felt the impact – and, too often, borne the scars – of some of the most turbulent moments in our nation’s history,” Holder told his audience in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts.Chancellor Dan Jones called on the community to reflect on the important issues.


“As we look back, we acknowledge the years of injustice endured by Mr. James Meredith and countless others, express regret and offer our apology for the injustice,” Jones said. “We take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to open doors of opportunity to this university for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. We also acknowledge that we still live in an imperfect world. So we pledge to continue our efforts at righting wrongs and to continue our pilgrimage toward full reconciliation.”


As the first African-American attorney general, Holder recalled watching as Meredith enrolled at the university and noted how far it has progressed from that day.


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave the keynote address for the apex of events leading up to the marking of the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s enrollment at The University of Mississippi in 1962. Video by Mary Stanton.


“This community has witnessed – and helped to shape – events of great consequence across, and far beyond, the state of Mississippi,” Holder said. “And through it all, this remarkable institution has consistently served as a meeting ground for critical debates, a proving ground for innovative solutions and a training ground for generations of leaders who have shaped America’s course – and who will surely help to write the next chapter of our nation’s history.”


Listening to the history of the university made Jennybeth Hendrick, a junior in the Honors College, realize the transformative struggle of the event.


“It was incredible to hear about the experience and now I feel I fully understand the magnitude of what happened on this campus in 1962,” said Hendrick, a dietetics major from Corinth. “I am proud to be an Ole Miss student.”


Holder told students he is confident in their ability to lead, their capacity to give and willingness to serve.


“No matter which field of study you’ve chosen to pursue, each of you will soon leave this campus armed with the power of an Ole Miss education,” Holder said. “As a result, in addition to your abilities, you’ll also have special responsibilities: to put your energy and skills to work for the common good. To challenge one another – and our nation – to aim higher; to become better; and to carry forward the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded – ideals through which a closed society was opened – and a university forever changed – and in which will always live our ongoing pursuit of a more perfect union.”


Honors College sophomore Zachery Newton said he was impressed with Holder.


“I thought he had insightful things to say,” said Newton, a Picayune native majoring in international studies and public policy leadership. “This event captured the year and everything it represented.”


For more information, visit the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.