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Civil rights leader Julian Bond came to campus as the fall 2013 presidential distinguished speaker, sharing with a large audience his thoughts on the age of Obama, the Tea Party Movement, conservative politics, Washington’s current troubles, and the scourge of the narrow minded.
After a few humorous remarks and recalling how he’d visited the Bridgewater campus in the 1970s, Mr. Bond got down to business, saying the election of Barack Obama did not equal “racial nirvana.”
“That was just one of the unfair burdens placed on the Obama presidency,” he said.
In fact, Mr. Bond added, the election of a black president may have made race relations in the United States even more strained.
“President Obama is to the Tea Party as the moon is to werewolves,” he said.
A politician, educator, former chairman of the NAACP, and a man cited by Time magazine as one of America’s top 200 leaders, Mr. Bond has the distinction of having been one of only eight students ever taught in a classroom by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was on the front lines during the heyday of the Civil Rights movement. His biography is a compilation of honors, and his presidential lecture, delivered in the Horace Mann Auditorium, showed that time has not dulled his attack.
“America is race,” he said at one point, citing examples from recent history to back up his point that the divide between different ethnic groups is today greater than ever. He also discussed the dangerous political rhetoric that can be heard today across the U.S., holding up the “birthers, who we used to call Birchers,” for special enmity.
Mr. Bond then looked at the history of the Civil Rights movement. As much as those days are remembered now as glory filled, they were borne out of persecution and struggle, he said.
“In those days, the laws, the schools, the courts favored whites,” he said. “That was white supremacy.”
In introducing Mr. Bond, President Dana Mohler-Faria called him “an icon of the Civil Rights movement.” He also recalled 40 years ago getting a chance to pick Mr. Bond up at the airport to bring him to a campus on the Cape for a talk. His passenger wanted to see the Kennedy Compound, so Dr. Mohler-Faria took him. As luck would have it, the president recalled, Sen. Ted Kennedy drove by and invited them to spend the afternoon. Clearly, that day was deeply etched in the president’s memory; he wondered if Mr. Bond recalled it, as well.
“I asked him about it,” the president said. “Not only did he remember it, he recalled details that I’d forgotten about.”
The president concluded his introduction by welcoming Mr. Bond to the podium, saying “I’m so proud to have him on campus.”