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White Valedictorian a Matter of Pride or Validation?

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Amid news of Morehouse College graduating its first white valedictorian, this week, we have a submission from blogger Kyle "Scoop" Yeldell. Yeldell, a Morehouse graduate and writer for Finditt.com, takes issue with what he calls the "media attention and slant to [valedictorian Joshua Packwood's] success."

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Spike, Martin, Samuel, shoot, even Mukasa could be the face of dear old Morehouse.

It's been circulating that for the first time in Morehouse's 141-year history that she has a white valedictorian.

Joshua Packwood is a valedictorian that had a holistic college and social experience, one who excelled in the classroom both and abroad. Josh earned the right to be both valedictorian and wear the title "Morehouse Man."

However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled their article on him with a preposterous question: Is he the face of Morehouse College?

That, coupled with the slant of certain quotes in the article, led me to believe that the article was not written to celebrate a college student who excelled in his undergraduate studies, but to validate the existence of an historically black college.

I can guarantee you that while Josh was studying for his Microeconomics class, he didn't sit back and say "I'm the face of Morehouse" or "I want to be valedictorian because I'd be the first white person at Morehouse to do so." It was, like many students, to excel in his studies.

From the AP story: Packwood raised "the bar for everyone," said Stanton Fears, a senior economic major.

Whether that is the case, this makes me cringe, thinking of how people can take the aforementioned quote.

He could have gone elsewhere, to a school like Columbia, Stanford or Yale, but his four-year journey through Morehouse has taught him a few things that they could not, and he makes it clear that he has no regrets.

Hundreds of men of Morehouse turn down Ivy League schools for the exact same reasons. Many denied their families' advice to go to these schools in fear that they may not have the same opportunities as they would at Morehouse.

Nobody can question whether Josh deserved his valedictory position, his 4.0 GPA, his growth as a man and student while at Morehouse. As I said before, those are things that he EARNED.

However, I don't like the media attention and slant to his success. There is at least one Rhodes Scholar finalist at Morehouse every year.

Other students have remarkable stories that national media has not published. Jerry Robinson ('04) was the salutatorian as an Accounting major despite having multiple sclerosis. Jerry carried his lunch on a tray with wheels every day for four years, but he carried the name of Morehouse on his back.

Harold Martin ('02) was the first Senior Class President to be named Valedictorian. Since graduation, he has furthered his studies at Yale Law School and is finishing his MBA from Harvard.

Justin Bayless ('07) was the first sophomore in Morehouse history to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Due to credit hours, he qualified for the third-year honor society. One year later, Christopher Hollins ('07) was selected to Phi Beta Kappa as a 19-year old junior, shortly after garnering a 171 (out of 180) on the LSAT.

Britt Gayle ('08) received a 38 (out of 45 on a sliding scale) on the MCAT, the highest in AUC history, as a junior Biology/International Studies double-major with two minors. Entering his last semester of his junior, he already had over 120 hours, a few based on AP classes he took while at high school in Switzerland.

Jerome Singleton ('10), a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is a four-year track letterman with a prosthetic foot. Despite having a triple-major of Physics, Mechanical Engineering, and Math, he has maintained a 3.86 GPA and is currently training for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

There are countless names of friends, confidants, associates and fellow classmates who excelled in life and in the classroom. Where are their stories?

Bottom line, the coverage deals with race, which is unfair to both Morehouse and its new valedictorian.

Ironically, there are many people lauding America for being open-minded to its acceptance of Barack Obama as a viable presidential candidate, but don't have the same view when it comes to this situation.

In both cases, Obama and Packwood deserve it, regardless of the amount of melanin in their skin.

I wish people would see race as a sign of ancestry, not a definition of a person. However, once you bring up the face of my alma mater, it is obvious that she would adorn the face of the majority of her children.

I agree that it is very open-minded for a person to enter an institution where they are a stark minority in order to have a holistic college experience, but the same thing could be said for other races at predominantly white institutions.

Some believe he shouldn't have been admitted. That's not my call nor my place, but at 8 AM on Sunday, I will be proud to watch Josh Packwood address the class of 2008 with an eloquent speech — not because he's white, because he is a Morehouse Man.

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Kyle "Scoop" Yeldell

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