By Frederic Reamer
Providence, RI – On April 11, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson told the nation, during the signing of a prominent education bill: "Education is 'the guardian genius of our democracy.'" He was quoting the former President of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar. Nearly a half century later, then Presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention and said, "Michelle and I are here only because we were given a chance at an education. I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance." This week's essayist, Joan Countryman, has devoted her life to this mission we call education. Her journey is a remarkable one, and it has shaped her compelling beliefs.
Countryman grew up in Philadelphia and was the first African-American graduate of Germantown Friends School. She retired in 2005 as Head of Lincoln School in Providence, and then served as Interim Head of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa and the Atlanta Girls' School. She lives in Providence.