By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - The images still inspire. Children sitting on their parents' shoulders amid a sea of American flags, fluttering on a cool Chicago night. A young black woman running to get as close as possible to the stage.
On November 4, 2008, Grant Park absorbed the world's focus: Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.
His victory speech stopped the Earth from spinning, if only for an evening, and drew the world's attention to an America where anything was again possible. Obama's victory energized a pulsing crowd of a hundred-thousand, their dream deferred no longer. Journalist Lois Wille called it "a great big huge happy evening" that would perhaps "wipe the memory" of a more divided America away.
Still, the podium was wrapped in bulletproof glass. Chicago charged all its 13,500 police officers with protecting America's great hope. It sent firefighters home wearing their uniforms so they would be ready to respond. We were not sure the promise and possibility of that moment was shared by every American. Yet that clear night, we celebrated the peaceful transition of power and the dawn of a different day.
This is a good country, full of good and great people, dedicated to an extraordinary American promise, our commitment to equal opportunity for everyone. That evening, even the most hardened partisan hearts could feel it. Our country had taken a step forward in racial relations, a big step, something that spoke of what our nation might yet become. A good nation had become an even better one, where the scars of some old wounds had healed and the pain of intense divisions, though not forgotten, had receded farther into memory.
Now the world is stopped no longer. How did we get from that America to this?FULL STORY
Editor's note: Christiane Amanpour is anchor of CNN's "Amanpour." This open letter to the girls of the world is part of the "Girl Rising" project. CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.
By Christiane Amanpour, CNN
(CNN) - Dear Girls of the World,
There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Half of them are women and girls.
Just imagine the whole world rising, as it will, when all women and girls are empowered.
It has to start with education. All the number crunchers have it right on this one: education = empowerment, from here in the United States to Uruguay and Ulan Bator.
The United Nations, the World Bank and any organization you can think of say that an educated girl is a girl who can get a job, become a breadwinner and raise herself, her family, her village, her community and eventually her whole country. All the stories and statistics show that a healthy society is one whose women are healthy and productive.
Look at what women and girls are achieving for Rwanda, 19 years after the genocide there. The country leads the way in Africa in every way: education, health, the economy, the environment and in elected politics, powered by the force of its women. It is an amazing story. In contrast, the Arab world, which is so rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, is way behind in all development indicators, because half their populations, their women, are denied basic rights. It's why the Arab Spring must liberate and fully empower women, for the good of those countries.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Freeman Hrabowski has been president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for 20 years. He was named one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2012 by TIME. He spoke at TED2013 in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.
(CNN) - Fifty years ago this month, I chanced to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I was a mild-mannered kid with a speech impediment and a love of math. That day, I was focused on solving math problems, not issues of justice and equal rights. But King broke through to me when he said this: If the children of Birmingham march, Americans will see that what they are asking for is a better education. They will see that even the very young know the difference between right and wrong.
I chose to march, and found myself among hundreds of children jailed for five terrifying days. Mind you, I was not a brave child. But even at 12 years old, I believed and hoped that my participation could make a difference.
Twenty-five years later, I had made my way to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. My colleagues and I had an outrageous dream: Perhaps a young research university - just 20 years old - could alter the course of minority performance in higher education, particularly in the sciences. Baltimore philanthropists Robert and Jane Meyerhoff shared our vision.
And now people ask: What magic have we hit upon that has enabled us to become a national model for educating students of all races in a wide range of disciplines? How did we - as a predominantly white university with a strong liberal arts curriculum - become one of the top producers of minority scientists in the country?
Rather than magic, there are a number of educational principles at work. And what my colleagues and I have found is that they all grow out of one key truth: The world does not always have to be as it is today.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarette, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - You wouldn't think that gay rights would be on a collision course with immigration reform. After all, what does one of these things have to do with another?
Not all that much. Yet, the fact is, these two worthwhile causes are about to collide, running right into one another at high speed. All for the sake of politics.
Here's why: The Gang of Eight's bipartisan immigration reform compromise bill - "The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Modernization Act of 2013"– combines border security and temporary guest workers with a pathway to green cards and U.S. citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
You've probably heard about how there are many on the right who want to kill the bill to please anti-Latino nativists. The weapon of choice seems to be the amendment process; more than 300 changes were proposed.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Cornell Belcher, a CNN contributor, was the Democratic National Committee's pollster under Chairman Howard Dean in 2005 and worked on the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. Follow him on Twitter: @cornellbelcher.
By Cornell Belcher, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag, fight for the government, he knows enough to vote ... "
- Frederick Douglass ("What the Black Man Wants," 1865)
Yet another milestone of great American historical importance has come to pass with embarrassingly little tribute. And much like the election of President Barack Obama, many of us also thought we would never live to see this racial ceiling broken.
But unlike the election and re-election of the first black president, the media has paid remarkably little notice to news that might well have more impact on the political trajectory of this country over the next decade than the election of a single president.
According to a new Census Bureau report, "In 2012, blacks voted at a higher rate (66.2%) than non-Hispanic whites (64.1%) for the first time since the Census Bureau started publishing voting rates by the eligible citizenship population in 1996."
Now, given the innumerable battles to secure this most important right of democracy - from the blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War to the halls of Congress and courts, to the strife-torn streets of the Civil Rights era - few things in our collective political history has borne so heavy a toll on our democracy as the enfranchisement of the African-American.
That the group for which so many hurdles have been thrown upon to block the vote has for the first time become the group most likely to vote is something like a big deal.FULL STORY
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.
By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad - the one some are calling the most racist in history - expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.
The goat's funny.
The names of some of the black men in the lineup are hilarious.
The premise: ridiculous.
And I would think that's the point of a commercial with a talking goat. It's meant to be ridiculous and not taken seriously. It's comedy of the absurd, along the lines of Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," Jerry Seinfeld's parents on "Seinfeld" or "Dude, Where's My Car?"
Does it play on stereotypical imagery?
Yes, and because of that, I can see how some could be a bit put off by a police lineup featuring all black men before a frightened white woman. But come on, one of the suspects' names is "Beyonte."
The circumstances surrounding the scene in the commercial are so outrageously over the top, I found myself snickering more than anything. Similar to the way I snickered during a skit featuring Dave Chappelle, who was making fun of racism with the creation of his character Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist in the South.
And he's black.FULL STORY
In an exclusive essay the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500) chairman and CEO explains why women are key to America's prosperity.
By Warren Buffett @FortuneMagazine
Fortune) - In the flood of words written recently about women and work, one related and hugely significant point seems to me to have been neglected. It has to do with America's future, about which - here's a familiar opinion from me - I'm an unqualified optimist. Now entertain another opinion of mine: Women are a major reason we will do so well.
Start with the fact that our country's progress since 1776 has been mind-blowing, like nothing the world has ever seen. Our secret sauce has been a political and economic system that unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree. As a result Americans today enjoy an abundance of goods and services that no one could have dreamed of just a few centuries ago.
But that's not the half of it - or, rather, it's just about the half of it. America has forged this success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country's talent. For most of our history, women - whatever their abilities - have been relegated to the sidelines. Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.
Editor’s Note: Cyd Zeigler is co-founder of SB Nation's Outsports.com. He has reported on LGBT sports issues for over a decade and told the coming-out stories of many athletes including Wade Davis, John Amaechi and Alan Gendreau.
By Cyd Zeigler, Special to CNN
(CNN) - When Jason Collins announced that he is gay, it made headlines. But when the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick, Brittney Griner, made the same announcement recently, it was met with less fanfare.
Part of that is the result of a stereotype that has persisted that women who play basketball are lesbians, while most men who play basketball are straight.
When a professional male athlete for one of the major sports comes out, it is breaking news, and start planning ticker-tape parades, despite men like David Kopay and John Amaechi already proving beyond a doubt that gay men are pro-athletes.
When a female athlete comes out of the closet, it is often met with a big, collective yawn. Griner coming out drew facetious comments like, “Shocker, there’s a lesbian playing basketball.” In fact, the lack of reaction in the news ended up being bigger news than her actual announcement.
It would be easy to blame the double standard in coverage only on stereotypes, but here are legitimate reasons Collins is getting the attention Griner’s announcement never saw.
Collins is the first active player in his league to come out, and he is the first active player in any of the major men’s sports –from hockey to tennis, basketball to golf – to come out publicly.
This is new ground. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is the author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” Hall teaches high school students and runs a graduate program in bullying prevention and diversity at bullyingpreventionstudies.com. He is on twitter @drdavidmhall.
By David M. Hall, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Times are changing for being openly gay or lesbian. The president has endorsed same-sex marriage, as are a growing number of politicians. The Boy Scouts are considering allowing Scouts to be out.
Even in the world of sports, Jason Collins, an NBA veteran, has come out of the closet.
But things don’t seem to have changed that much in some high school gymnasiums as it has on the NBA basketball court.
Carla Hale worked as a physical education teacher at a Catholic school in Ohio, but lost her job after being “outed” in her mother’s obituary, when she listed her female partner as her spouse. According to reports, an anonymous letter was sent to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus by a parent.
The next week, Hale was fired.
Sporting events and schools are the very places where people from every corner of our society come together. But in some ways, schools bring a different set of complications than the macho world of professional male athletes.
What is the difference between being out on the court or on the field, and being out in a classroom? FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Michael Lomax, Ph.D, is president and CEO of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low-income students. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans and a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
It was on this day in 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.
Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and became the nation’s first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically black college and university.
Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” the almost universally recognized motto of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.
UNCF makes those aspirations real for nearly 60,000 students each year by providing financial support for 38 private historically black colleges and universities and awarding 13,000 scholarships to students at 900 colleges and universities.
Like Lincoln University, these historically black colleges and universities began when African-Americans had few other higher education options. Much has changed since then. Today, a college education is not a “good-to-have” but a “must-have,” the basic requirement for almost every fast-growing and good-paying job and career path.
Today, African-Americans can attend almost all colleges and universities, but more than four times as many students choose historically black colleges and universities than 40 years ago. What’s the secret of their enduring success?
Historically black colleges and universities have endured and thrived because, just as in their early years, they are giving students the education they need and that we, as a community and as a nation, need them to have. FULL POST