‘If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love’: Opal Lee shares life story with students

Published: Mar. 18, 2023 at 10:20 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 18, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT
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MARSHALL, Texas (KSLA) - A historical figure known as the “grandmother of Juneteenth” hosted a discussion on March 18 to share her experiences from being a student at Wiley College to a social action pioneer.

Lee symbolically walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. at 90-years-old to ensure that Juneteenth was recognized as a national holiday.

“If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love,” Lee said.

In June of 2021, Lee stood beside President Joe Biden, who passed the bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Many students gathered for Lee’s discussion, and they say they felt inspired.

“I appreciate that she took the time out to talk to the students and shake students’ hands. Because when I first met her, I just wanted to shake her hand and tell her I was inspired by her, and she ended up taking a picture with me and having a 20-minute conversation,” student Christopher Holloway Jr. said.

People attending the event say, the feel encouraged by Lee’s story.

“Her perseverance inspired me to continue to fight for the cause that I believe in” student Grace Powell said.

Now at 96-year-old, Lee says her work isn’t over.

“We have so much to do. There’s still so much joblessness, and homelessness, and health care that some people can get, and others can’t,” said Lee.

Wiley College awarded Lee with an honorary doctorate degree. She says its full circle speaking at her alma matter.

“But I’m just delighted with all the changes that have been made, and I’m looking forward to coming again,” Lee said.

The pioneer plans to contribute to the planning process of the nation’s first Juneteenth museum set to open June 19, 2025.