Fifty Years later
In 1957, I was a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a member of the Men’s Glee Club, I spent a fall week touring and singing in Virginia. I remember two things from the end of that trip: attending the Maryland-North Carolina football game and seeing the young Queen Elizabeth II as she entered the stadium to take her seat to see the game.
I don’t remember who won the game, but I do remember how excited we were at seeing the 32-year-old monarch.
When she visited Richmond and made a lovely speech to the members of the General Assembly and the Governor’s cabinet, I realized how rare my two opportunities had been. She was as captivating to the more diverse crowds and elected officials as she had been in 1957.
She must have understood, as spoke warmly of the growing diversity of our two countries that in the last visit, that Virginia was in the throes of one of the saddest periods of the Commonwealth’s history: Massive Resistance and the closure of public schools to avoid implementing the unanimous Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation.
From Richmond to Jamestown
After the celebratory week honoring the renovation and restoration of the Capitol, ending with the Queen’s visit, the 400th Anniversary of the founding of the oldest permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World began on May 11. And a grand affair it was.
Ending with an appearance by President Bush, the festivities included visits to the new Historic Jamestown Visitors Center and the site of the James Fort. Contrary to conventional wisdom in 1957, the Fort had not been flooded and lost in the James River.
Under the careful and painstaking leadership of Dr. William Kelso, the real site of the Fort was found. Visitors can see the real outline of the Fort, and watch archaeologists uncover more artifacts. As they slowly dug them out of the soil, they showed them to onlookers and explained their use and value to the original settlers.
As I heard Dr. Kelso emotionally recount his efforts to find the real Fort James location, I realized how lucky I was to be a member of the oldest continuously meeting representative government in the New World on the day of his salute: “Happy Birthday, America.” He called upon all to join him in celebrating the contributions of the three cultures –African, Indian and English—to the grand experiment that blossomed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.