Speak Your Mind

White Valedictorian a Matter of Pride or Validation?


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."


Kyle "Scoop" Yeldell hide caption

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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.

Kyle "Scoop" Yeldell

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congrats kyle!

Sent by Leah | 3:52 PM | 5-16-2008

I agree with Kyle. My issue is not at all with Mr. Packwood. He set and goal and achieved it. Kudos to him. My issue is with Morehouse -- shame on them for taking the media's bait. And with every breath Pres. Franklin uses to praise Packwood, he needs to be careful to praise all the people Kyle mentions above.

Sent by Dan Johnson | 3:55 PM | 5-16-2008

While I applaud Mr. Packwood's new position at Goldman Sachs, this job is also not a novelty to Morehouse or Spelman students. In fact, every year dozens of students from both Morehouse and Spelman accept positions at Goldman Sachs and go on to be very successful on Wall Street.

Sent by EM | 4:18 PM | 5-16-2008

I cannot improve upon Mr. Yeldell's commentary. But I can say, Go Maroon Tigers!!

Sent by Bill M | 4:28 PM | 5-16-2008

More responsible journalism was required in the penning of the AJC's piece on Mr. Packwood. Taking nothing away from my Morehouse brother's earned accolades, the article should have done a better job highlighting the fact that Mr. Packwood's accomplishments are not unique to him. He comes from a long line of academic giants that were groomed at the College and left to do great things in this country and the world. The fact that Mr. Packwood is a white student IS historical, since he is the first white valedictorian; however, this was an opportunity for the AJC and other media publications to shine a light on Morehouse and its global impact in totality, using Mr. Packwood as an exemplar and not as some kind of new standard that only arrived with him during his Freshman year. Kudos to Mr. Packwood and well wishes to your future success but for shame to those media outlets whose main focus on race once again shunned an opportunity to help put harmful stereotypes to bed in this country.

Sent by Ian Labitue | 5:38 PM | 5-16-2008

well said Kyle! well said, indeed.

Sent by ernise | 7:46 PM | 5-17-2008

Well said, Scoop! I admire how fluently you brought attention to other Morehouse Men who have made just as great of accomplishments! There are soooo many that it would be hard for anyone to name them all, which is a compliment and that is what the media and society need to know! After all, all of you are phenominal! I am so proud of you! Congrats Morehouse Man :-)

Sent by Anisah | 2:25 PM | 5-19-2008

My son went to Morehouse as a seventeen year old boy and graduated as a man. Morehouse like other college has its ups and downs but as a whole it teaches its students to be proud men.... Whether you are black or white. Mr. Yeldell's article said it all.

Sent by Kay King | 2:44 PM | 5-19-2008

Kyle's commentary is eloquent and makes a valid point that we often focus on race more than individual greatness. However, many similar stories have focused on women and racial minorities overcoming barriers to success. I don't think these accounts ever suggested that there weren't plenty of successful white males who also achieved similar success, but it's not the distinction that makes headlines. Thankfully, Kyle's editorial on the matter provides the needed balance.

Sent by P Smith | 3:48 AM | 5-20-2008

Well, so much for the Jeremiah Wright theory of racial pedagogy. White men and Black men don't learn things differently. Black men succeed in an environment which encourages success. And White man, in that same environment, though a minority in that environment, also can succeed. Strike three for the learned doctor.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 2:37 PM | 5-20-2008

Thanks Kyle for writing a well-thought out piece. Also, I find it mind-boggling that the very school Dr. Martin Luther King graduated from is drawing this much hoopla over a white valedictorian. I'll say Morehouse is living the creed of its famed student's message - not to judge a person by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.

Sent by Moji | 5:58 PM | 5-20-2008

Well done! If you need an agent.......give me a shout!

Sent by Lamin Ibrahim | 1:19 PM | 5-21-2008

Kyle, your analysis of this event and the mainstream media's attempt to re-define Morehouse, and reduce it's current students and past graduates to slackers and average individuals is spot on. We must always be vigilant in telling our story, and calling out those who attempt to distort it. And brothers, please note that Dr. Franklin's comments in the article were taken out of context. He did praise Packwood, but also praised several other outstanding Morehouse students who are doing amazing things. Of course, the AJC only used the part of the quote that supported their theme.

Sent by KT | 3:55 PM | 5-22-2008

Kudos to him he put in the work so there u have it..But he will never have the issue of driving while black, wall street style...White supremacy still rules the world..

Sent by lee | 12:50 PM | 6-15-2008


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