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"Remember the Titans" Coach Herman Boone visits Plachta, talks diversity


Herman Boone

Herman Boone visited Plachta Auditorium Nov. 11 as part of the Marge Bulger Sport History Lecture Series.

The lecture series is organized by the Sport Management students in Faculty Marcia Mackey's class. The Marge Berger series was started by her husband to educate people about the importance of diversity in sports history. The organization is directly related to the the department in which the sport management class is taught.

"We have our students participate in organizing this event so they can see the different ways to do things," Mackey said. "It helps them get a wider view and grasp opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise. They also learn to pay attention to detail when it comes to organizing things like these."

Boone, the former coach of the historical Titans from T.C. Williams Highschool in Virginia, shared his passion for spreading diversity through his stories and experiences as a coach, father and leader in a movement that swept the nation.

He shared with the students in attendance that Remember the Titans wasn't just a movie to tell a story, it was to teach lessons in diversity, and it still continues to teach people how to get over their fears of adversity.

"To ensure that every person on your campus feels included," Boone said. "You have to build a team of students. The only true definition of a team is a group of people with one vision, one objective and one heartbeat. All members of the team must embrace diversity and stand firm for respect. You must make respect become trust, which binds all people and communities together."

The Titans were the first team of their time, three schools integrated to form one school and one team during a time period where segregation was a norm. The contributions the team made to the community and country are still remembered today. 

Boone then asked the audience a question and told them to answer to themselves. He described a scenario where one was to imagine walking down the toughest or roughest street in Mount Pleasant and noticed there were three teenage boys walking briskly behind them. He then asked, "what color would you pray they were?" That's when one realizes the difference in diversity and acceptance, Boone said.   

"Diversity is a problem for everybody, we all must contribute to the change," he said.

He quoted President George Ross in saying that CMU values the diversity of each individual and shows it by treating students and faculty with dignity and respect.

"What I've noticed in universities and corporations is that people interact together just fine at work or in class," Boone said. "But at lunch time is where you see the difference. People are in each corner, within their racial comfort zone. If we are to grow as individuals and be challenged we must look for opportunities to invite people we don't look like us into our sphere of influence."

Boone's lesson in diversity included advice on how to change one's views and work with others and large emphasis was put on the fact diversity starts when individual people seek change.

"It's not up to the managers, the officials at the universities, administration or the government. For diversity to thrive at CMU there must be the right climate created," he said. "The only person who can change your views is you. Test yourselves, ask yourselves: Am I comfortable being on a diverse campus? Do I struggle with accepting certain groups?"

Boone told students to be honest and be positive because making a difference requires courage and commitment and reminded students to just talk to each other. The Titans found a way to talk to one another and in doing so they created trust which became emotional glue that brought the team and community together, he said. Nixon even recognized the Titans as a model for the school systems and the nation.

Boone ended with Dr. Seuss's, "Oh, the places you'll go!" and shares a few words of wisdom before continuing with the Question and Answer portion of the night. Over twenty students lined up to ask the legendary coach questions, whether it was for a class or just for personal knowledge.

Mackey strives to show that students can take lessons from something as simple as movie. Students can apply Boone's story to their world, she said, and realize that what happened then still matters today. Lecture series such as this seek to educate people and bring them in, showing the importance of diversity in everyday life.

"Working with this organization and with the other students is a great experience," said Detroit graduate student Johnell Gooden. "It's amazing to work with people like Herman Boone and it's all about learning. We become better at what we do through experience in the field. It's cool to be able to learn to put on events such as this and work with some talented people."