Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, and Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College, were special guest speakers during the live international broadcast of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Saturday Morning Forum. The two black college presidents stressed the importance of investing in American students and specifically historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).
"We need to transform our young people into 21st century leaders," said Malveaux. "Education has the power to transform lives"
She went on to stress her point by referring to the National Defense Education Act of 1958. The NDEA came about after the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite, Sputnik. With the fear that the United States had fallen behind in math and science, the U.S. government provided funding to educational institutions and students to encourage a renewed emphasis in those subject areas.
"Not investing in our students is like a farmer who wants to eat his seeds now because he is hungry instead of planting them so he can feed himself tomorrow and the next day ," said Dr. Malveaux.
In early May, the Obama administration unveiled its education budget and in it were a number of cuts, including a program providing historically black colleges and universities $85 million in federal funding. This will significantly hurt their ability to maintain current enrollments.
"HBCUs deserve the support of all of Americans, not just the African American community," Malveaux said.
Dr. Hawkins explained that, on top of the funding cuts, many families are finding it more difficult to pay tuition.
"Parents are losing their jobs," he said. "They then have to come to us and ask how they can keep their child enrolled. If they are able to borrow money, after four or five years students are graduating with major amounts of debt."
At the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund's 38th Annual Conference, themed "A More Perfect Union-Targeted Stimulus: The Key to Reconstruction", U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be the keynote speaker during a town hall meeting and education summit on Monday, June 29.
"This is a time we need to ask the Obama administration some pertinent questions," said Dr. Malveaux. "African-Americans cannot lose their voice due to the joy of his election."
Later in the broadcast, Rev. Jesse L Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, paid tribute to legendary blues singer Koko Taylor who died earlier in the week.
"America lost a beautiful voice," he said. "She sang the blues--life's tragedies, personal and social. May her soul rest in peace.
Visitation for Taylor will be held Thursday, June 11, from 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th Street in Chicago.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366.