Dennis M. Walcott, newly appointed Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, joined Medgar Evers College President William L. Pollard in a riveting dialogue at the first President’s Policy Forum on Sunday, June 12, 2011 – a date commemorating the forty-eighth anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Wiley Evers, the College’s namesake.
“Medgar Wiley Evers’ death was a clarion call for equality of access and opportunity.” said President Pollard. “His life and legacy, embodied in part by our College, are powerful symbols of the continuing struggle for civil rights.”
The event began with the unveiling of a medallion commemorating Medgar Wiley Evers’ life. Made of mirror, polished stainless steel, and sandblasted glass, the medallion features the College seal on one face and a portrait of the namesake on the other. The discussion that followed the unveiling comprised of questions posed by President Pollard focusing on the role of Medgar Wiley Evers and the civil rights movement in addressing issues such as education equity.
In a discourse on the legacy of Medgar Wiley Evers, President Pollard queried Walcott on what the Chancellor believed his own legacy would be. Walcott answered: “ I am committed to a belief system of initial equity and education and the responsibility of our community to make sure that all of our children, and not just black children, children in general can have an equitable education, that they are able to go to College and have a career and be successful adults. Medgar [Wiley Evers] had a commitment and gave his life as a result of that. It is important to us to have a commitment to a cause – whatever that cause may be – and follow through with that.”
Discussing his identity as Chancellor and as a man of color, Walcott said: “Part of my job is to make sure … people understand where I’m coming from and how I represent the Department of Education and the city and what we’re talking about. I won’t always have the job as chancellor but [my identity] as a Black man will be with me for the rest of my life. The role that goes with this job – that commitment and visibility, how I articulate the issues, and how I represent for the community, is extremely important … how that resonates with the youths in particular.”
A Q&A session then followed with a highlight note from Edward Wong, a visiting Medgar alumnus from one of the pioneering classes, who spoke of the College’s early years, saying: “During that time we all felt, faculty and students alike, we had a mission. I’ve come to know over the years that the students, faculty and the organization here has done a tremendous job with that mission and that is to bring forth people in this part of the world into a good profession and career in the name of Medgar Evers. We’re very proud of that and keep on, keepin’ on”
“What the president has attempted and is successfully doing is bringing a quality institution here in the borough of Brooklyn, said NYS Senator Eric Adams, speaking at the forum’s reception. “I believe in the vision of this College. I believe in what you’re attempting to do and as long as I’m in or out of government I will give you my commitment for Medgar Evers College.”
“I believe it is a wonderful forum,” said Demetrius S. Lawrence, chairperson of the Education Committee at Community Board 9. “I have a vested interest in education not only for my children but for all children. It is a great forum.”
The President’s Policy Forum at Medgar Evers College will be an ongoing series that explores key issues that impact our community.