May 17 - First Lady Michelle Obama marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended school desegregation by warning that diversity in schools is decreasing as districts pull back on efforts to integrate schools. Mana Rabiee reports.
First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to graduating seniors in Topeka, Kansas on Friday. It was a fitting location. She was helping to mark the 60th anniversary this weekend of the Supreme Court decision Brown versus Board of Education. The ruling ended school segregation in America. SOUNDBITE: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA SAYING: "I believe that all of you, our soon-to-be-graduates, you all are the living, breathing legacy of this case. Just look around this arena." In the audience was Catherine Sawyer. Her mother was among the first plaintiff's named in the landmark case. SOUNDBITE: CATHERINE SAWYER, SAYING: "I know they had no idea it would go this far and still be going so." But that diversity celebrated now in Brown versus Board of Education may be at risk, the First Lady said. She warned her young audience that school segregation is on the rise. SOUNDBITE: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA SAYING: "You see, many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools and many communities have become less diverse as folks have moved from cities to suburbs," she explained. "So today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech. As a result, many young people in America are going to school largely with kids who look just like them." Some people say the key to desegregating schools is to desegregate neighborhoods. But the problem doesn't stop, in the classroom, Mrs. Obama said. She urged the graduating seniors to champion diversity in their own lives, starting with their families. To have those tough and "honest conversations," she said, because only that way can the country heal the wounds of the past and move forward on to a better future.