[...] These were just a few of the scores of teachers, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who grew up at that time in deeply segregated Birmingham. They clearly took the right messages from their parents, teachers, and mentors such as my father and mother who emphasized excellence and hard work and never tolerated victimhood.
These future professionals were, in turn, role models for young kids like me. I wanted so much to be one of the "big kids." My father would always say of Mary Bush, "That little Bush girl is pretty, and smart too." I wanted to be Mary Bush. When Sheryl McCarthy won National Achievement Scholarship, I wanted to be Sheryl McCarthy. When Amelia Rutledge was voted valedictorian at Ullman, I pretended to be the valedictorian. And whenever someone went off to college, I'd pretend to be on my way too.
Over the years, I have come to understand that it must have been much tougher for these older kids to stay focused and positive. I was very young in segregated Birmingham and perhaps easier to insulate from its negative influences. But these teenagers were well aware of their circumstances. They must have felt the sense of injustice and harm more intensely than those of us who were younger. That they still succeeded and internalized the positive messages of their teachers and parents is a great testament to their focus and perseverance. [...] _"Extraordinary, ordinary people: a memoir of family", Condoleeza Rice. #history #race #america #memoir #condoleezarice #family #rolemodel