Plenty of Arkansas eminences on hand today for the dedication of the new Central High visitor center this morning. Stodola
, and Pryor
all made remarks. (The 'Did You Know?' moment, via Pryor: Conrad Burns
, the Montana Republican who Jon Tester ousted from the Senate last year, was a key congressional sponsor of the center.) Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne
made an appearance, and Nikki Giovanni
read a poem.
The highlights were speeches by John Lewis
, the civil rights activist and current Georgia congressman, and Elizabeth Eckford
. Lewis gave an impassioned talk that recalled some of the major events of the Civil Rights era. Eckford's were the only remarks that didn't conform to the feel-good approach of the rest of the program: she gave a rather combative speech that questioned recent coverage of the Central High crisis. In her own words: "I was dismayed to read in the paper that the students welcomed us. I didn't feel it." It will be interesting to see if she and the rest of the Nine take a similar tone at tomorrow's commemoration ceremonies.
The visitor center is now open. If you want to see it today, you have until 8 PM. Expect a crowd.