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Mississippi KIDS COUNT helped former governor William Winter celebrate his 90th birthday recently and honored him with their inaugural Luminary Award. The dinner, held in Jackson at the Mississippi Childrenâs Museum, lauded the accomplishments of his career and recognized the Starkville School Districtâs Emerson Family School, the Jackson Medical Mall Foundationâs Childhood Obesity Program and Biloxiâs Moore Community House as its 2013 âSuccess Storyâ recipients and the Mississippi Childrenâs Museum as its âProgram of Promise.â
Part of a state-based network of grantees sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Mississippi KIDS COUNT is the leading resource for information on the overall well-being of our stateâs children. It provides reliable, relevant statistics on families and children to policymakers, educators and the general public. It is housed within the Family & Children Research Unit at the Social Science Research Center on the campus of Mississippi State University. Each year they publish and disseminate a fact book and host a summit to find solutions to the problems facing Mississippiâs children and communities.
Winter has a nationwide reputation for championing education reform and racial reconciliation. It is hard to imagine two issues in the 20th century that could have had a more important impact on the economic and social well-being of all Mississippians, especially children.
Winter wrote the foreword for the Mississippi KIDS COUNT 2013 Data Book. As our stateâs most recognized advocate for universal public education, he was an inspired choice. He observed, âToo much formal education was looked at suspiciously by many people lest it produce too many young people dissatisfied with the local surroundings and thus cause them to leave home. The result was that with an undereducated citizenry we were not competing well economicallyâŠWe have found out the hard way that the only effective solution to our economic problems is to raise the education of all our people to a more acceptable level.â
Still a visionary at age 90, the father of public kindergartens in Mississippi wrote, âThe creation and implementation of a state supported Pre-K program in every community is not only desirable but necessary if this state is to ensure the adequate intellectual development of all our children.â
As a veteran of World War II and after a lifetime of public service, Winter also emphasized the value of civic education. âIt is not enough,â he wrote, âthat we give kids the right tools to compete in the workplace. We must also teach them how to live as caring and responsible citizensâŠwho contribute to the well-being of their community. Not enough of this is being taught on a regular basis and in an effective way.â
Dr. Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor of the University of Mississippi and one of the âBoys of Springâ who helped craft the landmark Education Reform Act of 1982, joined in celebrating Winterâs birthday by reciting passages from Winterâs speeches in the 1960s that are still relevant today.
For example, in 1966 Winter told an audience at the Fondren Presbyterian Church in Jackson, âThere is no one of us who has such a monopoly on truth that we can stand on our little one square foot of earth and be assured of the eternal and everlasting righteousness of our position.â
Who among us in 2013, from President Obama to Governor Bryant to each of us as citizens, would not benefit from such advice? We are fortunate in our state and in our nation to have the lasting words and example of William Winter. No political leader has been a better friend to the children of Mississippi. Happy Birthday Governor Winter, and many more!
William âBrotherâ Rogers lives in Starkville and works with the Stennis Center for Public Service. Contact him at email@example.com.