By: Dr. Derrick Boone
“Education is the great equalizer.” I heard that over
and over and over from my parents as I was growing up. You see,
they hadn’t had the opportunities I had been blessed with,
and wanted to make sure I took advantage of them.
Both my mother and father grew up on farms in eastern North Carolina
during the 1930’s and 1940’s. And for those who know
little about farm life, especially for a black family in the south
during the depression, the expression “you have a long row
to hoe” takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve been
in the field since dawn, it’s almost dusk, and you still have
countless rows to go.
But my grandparents had the foresight to want a better life for
their children, and my parents were enthusiastic participants in
their dream, if for nothing more than to never have to chop cotton
again. They realized education was the key, the great equalizer
that could forever free their children from a hard scrabble farm
life, and made sacrifices to make sure each of their children went
to college. I often remember how proud my grandfather was in besting
his brother, my Great Uncle Charlie, because three of his girls,
to only two of Uncle Charlie’s, became teachers.
I’ll never forget what my parents taught me about the value
of education. Because of my grandparents’ sacrifices, my parents
were able to go to college. Because of my parents’ sacrifices,
I was able to not only go to college but get a PhD. And because
of my sacrifices, my oldest son, at only 23 years old, has not only
received two degrees from MIT but is pursuing a graduate degree
in physics from Johns Hopkins University. Without realizing it,
I had passed to him what my parents had passed to me, what my grandparents
had passed to them. Education is the great equalizer.
And it all started with a dream hatched in the dusty cotton fields
of eastern North Carolina. And I, and my children, have been standing
on the shoulders of giants ever since.