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    Austin Recounts Childhood Struggles With Racism in University Address Focused on Military Inclusion

    Austin Recounts Childhood Struggles With Racism in University Address Focused on Military Inclusion

    FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stood before the graduating students of Fayetteville State University on Saturday, the first Black person to lead the Pentagon speaking to the latest class at a historically Black college.

    Among the graduates to hear Austin's commencement address were 17 about to become newly minted second lieutenants from the North Carolina university's ROTC program. The day before, Austin visited with soldiers at nearby Bragg, which in June will strip its Confederate name and wipe away a shadow of its racist past when it becomes Fort Liberty.

    Austin's message was about service and diversity, and it was personal.

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    “I grew up in in the time of Jim Crow. Our local public high school had long been all white,” Austin said in his speech. “And one of my sisters and I were among the first Black students to integrate it.

    “Those were pretty ugly days,” he said. “And the first year was especially tough.”

    service “deepens our democracy,” he told the graduates. But other public service is crucial, Austin said, such as the teachers, school leaders and public officials who stood up for him as a child when the U.S. was still “painfully segregated” — years after the Supreme Court had struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine.

    “I still remember their quiet resolve and civic spirit, and they…

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