“If we’re going to see change, it’s going to come from our kids.”
From someone else, those words might sound like a platitude. But not from Ruby Bridges. She lived it.
She became an icon of change at age 6, when she entered an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, flanked by National Guardsmen sent to protect the tiny child from adults hurling insults and tomatoes. Norman Rockwell immortalized the moment in an illustration titled “The Problem We All Live With.”
Half a century later, the woman who integrated William Frantz Public School in 1960 dreams of seeing yet another boundary broken — a woman in the White House.
“It’s time for a woman to become the president of the United States. History, I’m about history,” said Bridges, who is now 61. On Thursday, she appeared on a panel organized by Union Theological Seminary adjacent to the Democratic National Convention, where she and several others spoke about applying their faith to their politics. Bridges discussed her support for Hillary Clinton.
“Everybody knows these are very trying times for us in this country. I believe that we have to come together and we have to rely on the goodness of each other,” Bridges said in an interview on Thursday morning before the panel convened. “Faith will help us get through this, just as it did before.”
She spoke of the faith that propelled the civil rights movement — from the faith of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other preachers who became activists, to the faith that her parents held onto while they watched her ordeal at William Frantz.
“What we as African Americans stood on was our faith,” she said. “If it wasn’t for, I believe, the faith of my parents, that would have been really, really hard for them to do. I’m a parent myself. I don’t know if I would have the courage to send any of my children or grandchildren into a situation like that. But they did.”
She recalled saying prayers as she walked through the doors of that elementary school, to drown out the taunts of white children and adults gathered outside the schoolhouse. “Throughout my life, my prayers have actively sustained me — held me up, carried me through. I believe in my prayers.”
She still lives in New Orleans, where she works on teaching racial tolerance to children and attends a Baptist church she selected because she wanted a diverse congregation. She flew to Philadelphia on Wednesday night, catching snippets of President Obama’s convention speech on an airport TV, to speak about her support for Clinton.
“She’s a good person,” Bridges said of Clinton. “She’s done a lot of good work for kids. If we’re going to see change, it’s going to come from our kids.”
She would know.