Talladega siblings Peter, David, and Steven Rasmussen submitted a letter to the president and Board of Trustees at Talladega College in Alabama to protest the school’s marching band.
The band is slated to perform at the president-elect’s inauguration in just under two weeks, and they are protesting the decision by returning their dead parents’ diplomas.
The brothers posted an open letter to Facebook Friday explaining that “under the present circumstances” they have decided that their parents “would not want to keep their honorary doctorates from Talladega College.”
As a result, the letter explains, they are returning their parents’ diplomas to the college to send a bold message.
This stunt comes one week after the historically black, liberal arts college accepted an invitation to march in President-elect Trump’s inaugural parade, sparking controversy in the community.
The letter to the college’s President, Dr. Billy Hawkins, and Board of Trustees stated:
Dear Dr. Hawkins:
It is with great concern that we learned that Talladega College has agreed to send its marching band to participate in the inaugural festivities of President-Elect Donald Trump.
Our parents, Donald and Lore Rasmussen, taught at Talladega College from 1942 to 1955, and we, their three sons, spent our early years living in a small white house that used to sit between your home and Derricotte House. During those years, our parents devoted themselves to their students and to the challenges of living in a segregated South, while we grew up attending Sessions School, the College’s multi-racial elementary/middle school. It was a happy time for us during which we formed our core values.
Our mother was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, and she found her way to the United States to escape the exact same policies as those espoused by Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. She studied at Columbia University for one semester, but she quit in disgust when she discovered that Columbia had distinguished itself by being one of the few American universities to curry favor with Hitler’s government by taking part in the 1937 celebration of the 550th anniversary of Heidelberg University in Germany.
In 2003, both Dr. and Mrs. Rasmussen were proud recipients of Honorary Doctorate Degrees in Humane Letters from Talladega College. In the presentation of their degrees, President Henry Ponder noted their “untiring fight to ensure the human dignity of all persons” and that “at great personal peril [they had] led the struggle for civil rights.”
Both of our parents have passed away since receiving this cherished recognition from the College. But we have no doubt that they would be angered and deeply disappointed if they knew of the plans for Talladega College to pay tribute to Donald Trump by participating in his inaugural. Mr. Trump has demonstrated in innumerable ways, during the electoral campaign and his time as president-elect, that he is the antithesis of all they worked and stood for and of the values they nurtured in their students.
We are writing to advise you that to honor our parents’ memory and their life work, we, their three sons, have chosen to return their honorary degrees to Talladega College. We are certain our parents would not want them under the present circumstances.
We hope that you will reconsider your decision in recognition of the principled history of the College and of the many people, including our parents, who gave of themselves to advance the cause of social justice and equality in Talladega’s name.
The post has fueled easily as much debate as did the marching band’s announcement to perform.
One person wrote, “I don’t blame this family for returning the honorary degrees. I know if I were an alum of Talladega, I would be raising hell right now.”
One of the siblings, Peter, replied to the comment and acknowledged everyone who is supportive of the brothers’ protest.
“Both of our parents taught at Talladega and continued on as educators for their entire lives. They had a special knack for asking provocative questions, getting people to think, and then to act on their beliefs. I know they would be very proud to read all of the thoughtful comments that are appearing here. This is what their lives were all about. Thank you to everyone for expressing your views!”
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