“Don’t just talk better. Be better. Do better. You are the future.” These were the words Dr. George Henderson left with Heritage Hall Middle and Upper School students during an assembly kicking off the School’s 2022-23 No Place for Hate® (NPFH) initiative, an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) program promoting inclusive learning communities.
In 1967, Henderson became the University of Oklahoma’s third full-time African American faculty member at the Norman campus. In 1969, he became the first African American in Oklahoma universities to be a distinguished professor when he was appointed the Sylvan N. Goldman Professor of Human Relations, Education, and Sociology. Today, Henderson is regarded as a civil rights pioneer in higher education in Oklahoma, with many notable accomplishments to his name. He has authored over 50 books and addressed audiences worldwide on race relations.
During his presentation at Heritage Hall, Henderson shared captivating stories about childhood struggles with poverty and illiteracy, moving his family to Norman (which until that year was a sundown town), and becoming the town’s first African American property owner. He reminded students that “acceptance is a two-way street. Many say there’s no room for hate, but the truth is hate resides in every room we occupy if we let it. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. Take a stand when you see or hear something that isn’t right.”
In closing, Henderson encouraged students to be the generation that brings about real change. “You can make a better world than we made in my generation. We all said we would do better, but we didn’t do better. We talked better, but we didn’t do better. You can show us a better way. Be the generation that shows the rest of us how to not only pledge to do something but do it,” Henderson said.
Following Henderson’s presentation, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Teresa Turner commented, “At Heritage Hall, we are individually and collectively committed to promoting and practicing kindness, acceptance, and inclusion every day. Dr. Henderson’s words remind us to assume the best in others, take on a welcoming posture, and show hospitality. Only then can we begin to change our community and our world in positive ways.”
According to Turner, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will continue to sponsor events and activities throughout the year that facilitate conversations about diversity, respect, and inclusion. These include a topical Courageous Conversations program for faculty and staff, monthly campus-wide initiatives recognizing different cultures and cultural celebrations, and panel discussions featuring experts on various topics that are open to the entire Charger community.