With the excitement and pictures on Facebook of the first day of school, I wonder how many of us remembered Ruby Bridges on her first day of school in New Orleans in 1960? Ruby was to begin kindergarten at a racially segregated school, but many parents weren’t pleased and, in fact, kept their own children out of school in protest.

Do we recall those poignant photos of federal marshals shepherding her to a classroom in which she was the only student?

We owe a toast to Barbara Henry, the only white teacher willing to accept Ruby. All year, Ruby was a class of one, eating lunch alone and sometimes playing with her teacher at recess, but you know what? Ruby never missed a day of school. This little girl, this American hero at five, turned 65 this year.

It can be discouraging to be an American these days, with a president who thumbs his nose at historical traditions of his office, cavalierly attacking those with whom he disagrees, who can’t acquiesce to that simple truism most of us learned years ago; each of us makes mistakes and that mature people admit their error, make amends and move forward trying to do better.

It’s important to remember that whenever each of us stands up to hate, to prejudice or to injustice, we stand in the shadow of women like Ruby and Barbara. Maybe it’s at the supermarket, the pub or our place of worship. Regardless where, when or how, wouldn’t it be nice if each of us did whatever we could to let that little girl or teacher in New Orleans know … we heard you?

Thanks for teaching us.

David Johnson

Mount Vernon

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