‘Remember the Titans’ coach speaks at Fort Riley event

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Herman Boone, the high-school football coach who inspired the movie “Remember the Titans,” said diversity is not about skin color but who someone is as a person at a presentation Wednesday.

Boone was the featured speaker at the post’s African-American Black History Month Observance at Riley’s Conference Center. The event was sponsored by the 1st Infantry Division Equal Opportunity Office.

“I told the Titans, ‘I don’t care if you don’t like each other … I don’t like half of y’all. But everybody on this team simply deserves to be respected,'” Boone said.

Boone was hired as head football coach in 1971 for T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. After overcoming the obstacles of an integrated school, the Titans went on to the state football championship, a story that spawned a popular film in 2000.

“I believe my story is but one of many like yours: facing adversity, challenges that sometimes seem invisible,” Boone said. “‘Remember the Titans’ is one of those stories.”

Boone said the movie is about traits everyone has: courage, strength, leadership and teamwork, as exemplified by “some incredible young men who decided to break the mold of our nation.”

“They decided to accept the soul of an individual rather than reject any human being on the face of this earth based on the color of their skin,” Boone said.

Boone said his story reflects his experience with race relations in the U.S.

“I decided one day I had had enough,” Boone said. “I told the superintendent, ‘I came here as a colored boy, but by God, I’m going to leave as a proud black man.'”

The former coach said the most meaningful moment of his career was not just bringing the team together but bringing parents together.

“The black and white parents began their journeys separate — wouldn’t speak to each other, wouldn’t sit with each other, but around the sixth game all of them decided to wear a sea of red showing solidarity and acceptance of their team,” Boone said. “That was the most gratifying thing in my coaching career — having to coach a team that was separate in mentality, separate in race, then having to deal with parents. It was a little bit much.”

Boone told the story of meeting Barack Obama while attending Obama’s speech at T.C. Willams High School in September 2008. Boone was sitting in the nosebleed section when the Secret Service appeared and told him Obama would like to see him.

“I walked down to the front of the aisle before 10,000 people watching me, wondering, ‘Where in the world is he going?’ Barack came off the stage and put his arms around me and whispered to me, ‘Thank you.’ And you’re the first ones who know this,” Boone said. “Newspaper reporters have asked me, ‘What did he say to you?’ You are the first ones to know that he said to me, ‘Thank you.'”

Boone said the message he wanted to get across was that people learn to accept the soul of the individual rather than the color of their skin.

“Our society today can be viewed as a quilt. Each square in the quilt is comprised of its own unique design, and these squares are stitched together by a common thread called America,” Boone said.

Master Sgt. Thomas Miskevish said the Equal Opportunity Leadership Course incorporates “Remember the Titans” into the course, which presented the idea of having Boone come speak.

“We looked him up, pursued him and he accepted,” Miskevish said.

The Junction City High School football team, which won the 6A state championship in 2008, was in attendance Wednesday.

Junction City High School senior Lamar Singletary said Boone is an inspirational coach while being an approachable person who seems to treat people with respect.

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