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Believing Positive Change Can Happen: A Trip to South Africa

Believing Positive Change Can Happen: A Trip to South Africa

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University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town.

In 2009, I traveled to South Africa for two weeks with a group of higher education administrators. The trip was structured to educate us about the higher education system in South Africa post-apartheid, as well as to tour the Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria areas. Prior to our departure, I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom and Cry, the Beloved Country.

Supreme Appeal Court of South Africa
The Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa.

While useful for context, the advance reading was not as insightful as visiting and touring South Africa. In Cape Town, the sites we visited that gave us a perspective on life under apartheid were the District Six Museum, the Robben Island Prison Museum, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, and the University of the Western Cape.

Robben Island prisoners South Africa
Displays explaining the life of Robben Island prisoners.

The District Six Museum was small, but the story of how the government wiped out a thriving ethnic neighborhood was emotionally powerful. The contrast between the location of the prison on isolated Robben Island and the distant view of Cape Town was enhanced by stories told by the tour guides, several of whom were prisoners on Robben Island.

Robben Island quarry
The rock quarry at Robben Island, where prisoners were made to work.

In Johannesburg, we visited the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum. The museums provided many artifacts, pictures and stories and of course, elicited more emotions.

I write about my trip to South Africa because of the recent events triggered by the murder of George Floyd. In the past two weeks, many individuals and companies have stated there is no room for racism, yet there are policies, practices, and laws that have maintained inequalities between whites and blacks in the United States, even after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Far too much time has elapsed since 1964. I am reminded of an exhibit in the District Six Museum in Cape Town featuring a quote from Langston Hughes:

Langston Hughes quote South Africa
The Langston Hughes quote in the District Six Museum.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

If we don’t act to overturn and restructure the practices, policies, and laws which allow inequality and racism, our lives will be shaped more like a broken-winged bird than a bird that soars in flight.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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