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Southern Cayuga Conversations: Americans Who Tell the Truth

May 21, 2021

Elaine Meyers, The Auburn Citizen

Educator Elaine Meyers reports on her AWTT project at Southern Cayuga Central School in Auburn, New York. 

“Our conversation begins as we gaze at the faces of 20 Americans painted by Robert Shetterly. The artist draws us into their thoughts and feelings by the contrast of the soft background with the intense texture of color and facial form. Some are familiar faces and some we do not know. Some speak to us individually because of their expression, their age, their gender or their race. As we approach them more closely, we hear them speak.”

Muhammad Ali: “If I thought going to war would bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me.”

Helen Keller: “When one comes to think of it, there are no such things as divine, immutable, or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim on them.”

Oren Lyons: “The law says if you poison the water, you’ll die. The law says that if you poison the air, you’ll suffer. The law says if you degrade where you live, you’ll suffer. … If you don’t learn that, you can only suffer. There’s no discussion with this law.”

Sherri Mitchell: “Rights and responsibilities cannot be separated. Every right that we stand upon must be balanced by a set of corresponding responsibilities. We cannot legitimately make a demand unless we are willing to take responsibility for creating a world were that demand can be met.”

Ai-jen Poo: “The 21st century way to create social change is to determine where we can create win-win-win situations around our values. These values are simple: ensuring we can take care of ourselves, our families, or communities and future generations to come.”

“The portraits are displayed in the halls of the Southern Cayuga middle and high school, and were purchased by the Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project from Americans Who Tell the Truth. These portraits bring to our community American citizens who have courageously addressed issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. The Southern Cayuga Central School District and Anne Frank Tree Project share Americans Who Tell the Truth’s commitment to providing a variety of resources to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities and the Earth.”

…Bill Zimpfer, [English teacher and] president of the Anne Frank Tree Project board, [commented], “The New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Department of Education is in the process of drafting diversity and inclusion standards. Americans Who Tell the Truth puts us ahead of the game in these critical educational goals.” …

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