Turning The Page

Jackson Center Hosts 2017 Young Readers Program

Carlotta Walls LaNier of the Little Rock Nine answers a question Tuesday during the 2017 Young Readers Program at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Next to LaNier is Junie Eimiller, 12th grade English teacher at Southwestern Central School. P-J photos by Remington Whitcomb

On Tuesday, 1,500 area students left their respective classrooms and traveled to the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts to listen to Carlotta Walls LaNier of the Little Rock Nine speak about her childhood fight to enter the classroom.

The Robert H. Jackson Center’s Young Readers Program, which has been held annually for the past 13 years, serves to highlight the importance of reading and writing in educational curriculum. Jackson was regarded by his contemporaries and is still today considered to be the most eloquent writer in U.S. Supreme Court history.

Carlotta Walls LaNier, youngest member of the Little Rock Nine and author of “A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School,” served as the guest speaker.

During the event, LaNier recalled her fight to simply enter Little Rock Central High School. Students were presented with a short video beginning with the events that transpired on Sept. 4, 1957, and ending with an excerpt from the Today Show where all nine members of the group reassembled for a joint interview.

Through the story of her journey, LaNier’s message to the students focused upon how important character is in becoming the best student– and person– we can all be.

Twelve area public schools and one private school attended the 2017 Young Readers Program, hosted by the Robert H. Jackson Center.

“The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” LaNier said. “We need good leaders. You have the opportunity to be one of those.”

LaNier went on to explain the correlation between leadership and character. While leadership is an external attribute, character is internal. And while leadership is what we show to others, it is our character that drives us to become the best leader we can become. Often, that leader is the one who is most in touch with their own character.

LaNier also extolled the virtues of solid core values in a leader: loyalty, integrity, courage, decency and compassion.

“Although we are leaders while others watch, the best remain defined in their character while no one is watching,” LaNier said. “If we are clear in the development of our character, we need not worry about our leadership potential. Character, in the end, makes a leader.”

To conclude her speech, LaNier listed the lessons she learned through the journey as a member of the Little Rock Nine.

“I learned to hang in there until the job was done,” LaNier said. “I learned to trust myself and my own instincts first– and I say to you: get to know who you are, and know what you can and cannot do, and have the confidence to separate the two. I learned that others were there for me: my parents, my church, my neighbors and even strangers who sent letters through the mail. Decisions we make, or are made for us, can determine the character we build.

“We need to remember to choose wisely. Perhaps the best leaders of yesterday may just be those who taught a lesson to us: the ones who did not move very quickly, the ones who taught us to depend on ourselves, to trust in ourselves, to look inside and decide in a situation what makes the most sense for ourselves. Leaders serve as examples, but we need to learn also to depend on the character of that person, as we constantly must be about the business of developing our own character.”