Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

The 96th Congress

with 3 comments

On April 30, 1980, my father sat before the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, in DC. Senator Harrison Williams, of New Jersey, was the Chairman, and read into the record..

“..Dr Thomas Minter has been nominated as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education and will be responsible for maintenance and implementation of $4.8 billion of Federal assistance to State and local education agencies, authorities, and professional persons. Dr. Minter has been Deputy Commissioner in the Office of Education, and he knows thoroughly the programs which are meant to equalize educational opportunities for the Nation’s schoolchildren.”

The Chairman introduced Congressman Gray, from Philadelphia, whose remarks reflected a deep respect for my father, and admiration for the scope of his achievements.

“ my own home city, Mr. Chairman, Tom Minter pioneered many significant efforts in the fields of administrative evaluation, career education, development of basic skills, and community participation… Currently he works with some 16,000 school districts and is responsible for the largest program in the Office of Education..”

At a later moment, my father acknowledged submitting his statement for the record. In the course of making additional comment, he related the beginnings of his passion in education, and the foundation of his philosophy:

“ first experiences, as I thought of becoming a teacher, an educator, were experienced in rural Lee County, N.C., where, as a New Yorker, I visited relatives during summer vacations. There, I watched my aunt, who was a teacher at the Minter School, at Minter Crossing –a place named for my grandfather who, at the age of 96, used to enjoy telling stories to us, as we gathered around, of how he delivered supplies to soldiers in the Union Army, he being a former slave.

It is my philosophy that the commitment of our Nation to a free and appropriate education for all of our children requires that we make a special effort to provide equal educational opportunity and quality education for the most disadvantaged, and in fact, that we help all children to reach their fullest potential.”

I’d known about the school, at Minter Crossing; he’d taken me on a trip to Sanford, North Carolina, when I was very young, and I’d seen the four-room building that served as an elementary school for Lee County. Minter School Road still exists; the school, demolished, long before this spring’s tornado ravaged a stomp through Sanford.

…I knew the gist of this origin, but it never seemed directly related to me; isn’t that the way -until some moment of perspective comes along to snap the full view of legacy into focus..?

Now, falling out of recent change, the enduring disposition of my roots catches me; knitting intuitively into a net of ambition, to catch opportunity squeezed out of the classroom and community, by creating a music program for arts education.

..the Minter School was not a grand edifice; it wasn’t large, imposing, or pretentious; it was, in origin, a way to serve a purpose: collecting knowledge in a space which protected opportunity, and gave community a means of pride.

Considering the shriveling nature of political commitment to arts education, I believe that the onus is now on us, individuals of this society; in spite of the appearance of insurmountable odds, for funding and sustainability, I believe that the right combination of community support, creative endeavor and original programming, will facilitate ways in which arts programming can maintain its visibility, viability, and evidence of relevance.

Here’s to the evidence to come, of sustaining purpose..


Written by tomminteroffthestoop

July 15, 2011 at 10:58 AM

3 Responses

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  1. Hello dear Tom,

    Is it a coincidence you are writing about your roots. I do the same, following a diary by my mother from 1986. it is because of our age
    I love the story about the Minter School and the response of Anne is a great compliment to your family!
    Send you my Love,


    September 4, 2011 at 3:51 AM

    • Dear Berna; ..perhaps it is our age; we can appreciate so much now! Thank you for reading, and keeping up with what I’m doing..
      I miss my Dutch family, and send my love..


      September 4, 2011 at 9:43 AM

  2. I was not surprised by the information. Having worked with Dr. Minter for more than a decade I learned from his deep commitment and dedication to educating the most disadvantaged students. His beliefs led to his, and Lehman College’s engagement in many wonderful and successful collaborations with Bronx, NY schools. The students from these collaborations, more than 6000, still contact the college to share their success stories as teachers, lawyers, doctors, college professors, business leaders, computer programmers, research scientists as well as parents of their own children. I am forever grateful to have had such a role model and mentor. We continue the work he started based on his early experience and devotion to his philosophy.

    Anne Rothstein

    July 15, 2011 at 12:16 PM

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