Clinton Digital Library

Commemorating Courage: 40th Anniversary of Desegregation of Central High

This online exhibit revisits the 1957 Central High crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas. Select quotes of President Clinton’s speech at the 40th Anniversary Commemoration are highlighted, along with an examination of the speechwriting process for crafting the remarks. The exhibit includes documents and images from the archives at the Clinton Library, and also provides links to additional historical material maintained by other institutions.

In September 2017, we commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  As someone who remembered the event as a child, and as President during the 40th Anniversary Commemoration, President Clinton holds a special connection to this history.  

Speechwriters met with President Clinton to craft a message that would commemorate the sacrifice and courage of the Little Rock Nine and inspire those who heard the message to step out in similar acts of courage. The writers addressed the failures of a system of government that attempted to exclude individuals from the American Dream and resolved that America would only ever truly be great if everyone had equal access to opportunities.