Mixed Response Greets Governor Bush at FAMU
About a dozen students walked out last month before Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave a Martin Luther King Jr. day address at historically Black Florida A&M University.
The 150-seat auditorium classroom was filled to capacity when the group, identified only as “students of FAMU,” handed out a one-page statement describing Bush’s holiday visit as disrespectful to King’s legacy and Black students.
They contrasted Bush’s position with King’s on affirmative action, racism and anti-war sentiments and chastised the governor for not restoring the voting rights to Black voters who were erroneously purged from the rolls prior to the 2000 presidential election.
Bush said he had been unaware of the walkout, but said such demonstrations are “an important element of our free society.”
“They have every right to do it. It doesn’t bother me a bit,” said Bush, who had been invited by the school to speak.
“I have great admiration for the students here and for their success,” Bush said. “I wanted to make the link that the success of this university could not have occurred without the struggles that Dr. King and many others a generation ago undertook.”
Bush’s prepared remarks did not specifically mention One Florida, his policy for assuring college acceptance to the top 20 percent of every high-school graduating class. But he cited progress in minority enrollment over “the past three years,” the period in which One Florida was implemented.
One Florida, which also ended affirmative action in college admissions and “set-aside” preferences in state purchasing, touched off massive demonstrations at the Capitol — many of them involving FAMU students. In 2002, Bush declined an invitation to be the university’s commencement speaker when student leaders threatened a boycott of graduation ceremonies. But this year he was warmly welcomed by about 200 students, faculty members and FAMU administrators who gathered for a breakfast that started the King holiday observances.
FAMU President Fred Gainous even complimented the protesters on their peaceful, orderly dissent, noting that King always stood for “the opportunity to disagree” with government leaders and policies. “We are the dream come true,” Gainous said. “Yes, things may not be as they should be — but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be.”
— Associated Press
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