Statement from W. Burke Royster, Ph.D., Superintendent of Greenville County Schools
Over the course of 12 days ending Monday, June 8, I had the honor of conferring the title of graduate on each of our GCS seniors. During the conferral, I spoke to each class about the phrases on our State seal, “Prepared in mind and resources,” and “As I breathe, I hope.” I also spoke of my hope for the future: a hope not built on an idea of luck or destiny, or the result of my unwillingness to see the world as it really is. Instead, this hope is built on my experiences interacting regularly with young people, and experiencing first-hand their bond with one another, willingness to work hard, and commitment to resolving longstanding inequities in our society.
Though I have hope in the next generation’s ability to one day resolve countless problems that tear at the fabric of our communities, countries, and world, I am not willing to throw my hands up in defeat.
I believe it is incumbent upon today’s leadership to progress toward resolving the outstanding issues of our day. My generation experienced the civil rights movement and integration of schools, sports teams, restaurants, libraries, and other public places. We had our childhood perceptions shaped by our leaders who, in a matter of 25 years, defeated fascism and etched the first footprints on the surface of the moon. Now it is our turn to do extraordinary things, and chief among them is that we must confront and dismantle years of racial injustice that continues to fester in the very institutions that exist to ensure security, equity, and liberty for all citizens. Although confident the next generation has what it takes to solve the problems of the future I, for one, believe there will be new challenges facing them. It is our responsibility as leaders, as a school system, and as a community to refocus and rededicate ourselves to the difficult work necessary to repair the torn fabric of our society before passing the mantle of leadership to those who follow us.
I am a proud alumnus of the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) Upstate Class XXIV. To ensure we are acting in accord with the vision of the Board of Trustees as stated in our Strategic Plan and in order not to lose the momentum of the moment, the Riley Institute has agreed to assist Greenville County Schools in the development of a Diversity and Inclusion team that will serve in an advisory role to the administration. This group will provide insight, feedback, and recommendations to Greenville County Schools to ensure this organization serves as a beacon of hope and equity to all children.