April 19, 2018 11:05:36 AM
This week, the Lowndes County School District and Columbus Municipal School District paid a combined $4,000 to bring the RISE ABOVE Red Tails program to its middle-schoolers.
The program is the work of Commemorative Air Force, a nonprofit organization which restores airplanes. The organization's RISE ABOVE Red Tail program teaches students and communities throughout the country about the Tuskegee Airmen.
The expense is justified, and for more than one reason.
The story of The Tuskegee Airmen is not just a matter of historical record. Their story remains relevant today as our nation still grapples with the troubling topic of race relations. It is important that each generation of American children learn the story of these men, the times in which they lived and the contributions to our society that extended beyond their war-time service.
The Tuskegee Airmen, trained as Army Air Corp fighter pilots used to support bomber missions in World War II, are today recognized as one of our most distinguished groups of soldiers. In the era of strict segregation, the pilots endured bigotry and insult -- the tails of their fighters were painted red to distinguish them from the all-white fighter units. They were routinely the worst-equipped, worst cared-for of our fighting men, yet they distinguished themselves at a time when conventional thinking was that black soldiers were inferior. The full measure of the Tuskegee Airmen's prowess was only realized when captured German documents noted that the Tuskegee Airmen were among the most feared units the Germans faced. Over the years, their story has become a source of national pride.
Their significance goes beyond the battlefields of Europe and that, too is an important part of their contribution to our nation. The Tuskegee Airmen, like the black citizens who fought and sometime died for our nation, returned home determined to claim the full rights of citizenship that had been denied them because of their race. Historians routinely date the beginning of the civil rights era to those soldiers.
Certainly, every black child benefits from learning the story of these heroes, They were pioneers in the Civil Rights movement and an example to follow.
But in another sense, their story transcends race and provides an important lesson that all children, regardless of race, can benefit from.
Those who achieve great things endure great challenges. There is scarcely one case in which a person has excelled in any endeavor without having overcome obstacles that seemed almost insurmountable. Often it is not the quality of the idea but the determined perseverance, that ultimate leads to success.
We want all of our children to dream big dreams, so it is important for them to know also that those dreams will be met with resistance.
There would have been any number of occasions where the Tuskegee Airmen would have been well-justified to abandon their struggle. That they rose above those challenges, unfair as they were, is a story that should inspire us all.