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On Christmas day I went to see The Great Debaters. I had a vague idea of what the movie was about but I didn’t realize that so much of it would focus on James Farmer, Jr. I really, really wanted to like the movie (I did), but the ridiculously trite dialog and (sorry, Denzel*) inexperienced directing made it impossible.

One of the great regrets of my life is that I didn’t spend more time with Dr. Farmer when I had the chance. While I was an undergrad at Mary Washington College (now University of Mary Washington) I had the great honor of taking his Civil Rights class. He was 77 years old at the time but the man had a memory that was truly astounding. He was able to recount epic moments in Civil Rights history as though they had happened days ago, instead of decades. He told stories of the abject hatred he faced when he attended his first sit-ins. And of the unimaginable struggles he had to endure as one of the Freedom Riders. To be able to hear first hand accounts from someone who played such an integral part in the shaping of American history was a privilege that I will always treasure.

So even though I didn’t completely like the after-school-special-hollywoodization of Farmer’s tenure at Wiley college, I did respect the sentiment. If nothing else, it served to remind us of the sacrifices of those that have come before. SNCC, CORE, SCLC, Farmer, King, Wilkins…and so many more.

Dr. Farmer was one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever known. And with every success that I achieve I honor him and those who have paved the way.

*Note to Denzel: While I respect you and think you are one of the world's greatest actors, come on dude, even you have to admit that there were WAY too many arc shots at the end. I got dizzy for goodness sake. Oh, and you totally deserved the Oscar for Training Day, you were awesome.