Robinson sees new America

By on February 11, 2010

America is a much different place than it was when he was growing up, according to Eugene Robinson.

Alumni Hall was filled to capacity with students, faculty and alumni as he took the stage on Feb. 3 to deliver his speech, entitled, “We’re Someplace We’ve Never Been: Race, Diversity and the New America.”

Robinson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 coverage of the presidential campaign, writes a column twice-weekly for The Washington Post. He is known to “pick American society apart and then put it back together again in unexpected, and revelatory, new ways,” as described in his bio on PostWritersGroup.com.

Robinson has had experience during his 25 years at The Washington Post as a foreign correspondent, a city hall reporter, city editor, foreign editor and assistant managing editor for the award-winning Style section.

“Mr. Robinson has firsthand experience and will be able to share with the audience an understanding of race relations and diversity as they stand today,” said Karla Natale, director of special events, prior to the speech.  “He will be able to provide fresh perspective on our current political climate and the impact thus far of the Obama administration.”

Throughout his speech, Robinson relayed his experiences of the advancements that America has made in race relations since he was young.  He said that America has come a long way from the way he grew up. There are no central squares in the South that have a Confederate soldier statue with its back to the North, as there were during his childhood.

“Robinson claims we must clearly view the situation before us and take initiative,” freshman Kathryn Paterek said.  “We must continue as the rising generation of youth, to focus on a person’s values, rather than the race he or she may represent.”

Photo credit: Charlotte Greene

Robinson recalled his reactions to the announcement that Barack Obama was elected president.  He remembered being able to call his parents and tell them they lived to see the first African-American president.

“When I was writing my column later that night, it was written through tears,” Robinson recalled. “When we see [Obama] at a gathering, we should think that it’s truly an amazing thing.”

But while Robinson has seen a great deal of progress, he knew that diversity was far from a closed case.

“We don’t seem to be smart enough or have enough resources in order to reach everyone,” Robinson said.  “There’s no magic bullet for diversity, no one technique or program.  One secret of diversity is that it is a process, not a destination, and we need to keep working at it.”

Despite no guideline of how to enhance diversity among communities, students said they benefitted from Robinson’s speech.

“I gained a sense of insight into how the African-American community has evolved and gained support,” Paterek said.

“I hope that students understand that we should keep in mind what an enormous step we have achieved,” Robinson said.  “Before we look past race, we have to look at it.”

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