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South Carolina Honors College

Our Generation: Seeds of Hope for South Carolina’s Future 

by Sarah Campbell Brown 

Every state has a story, an identity rooted in both truth and stereotype. Every generation of citizens, an opportunity to redefine our image to the world. As South Carolinians, our identity is old, prestigious, and filled with all the controversy that comes with being southern, the first to secede from the union, and one of the last to fold up our Confederate flags. Consistently ranked towards the bottom of the nation in terms of healthcare, crime rates, and education, we’re often viewed through the lenses of racism and conservatism tainting our past. The soil of our state may produce soybeans and cotton, peaches and corn, yet deep below lies the true narrative of our history in all of its raw authenticity, the foundation of the issues now plaguing our state. However, we don’t have to subordinate ourselves to the derogatory nature of our reputation; as the next crop of leaders we each are seed carrying hope for the future, planting the groundwork for the harvest of revival and innovation, and having an opportunity to redefine our state’s potential on a larger scale.   

As is the first step for the many farmers planting crops throughout our state’s rural areas, we must first till the soil we rise from, digging, stirring, and overturning until our past is laid out in unabashed candidacy before our very eyes. Over time, we have chosen to ignore the turbulence of our past, but we must use our spades, shovels, and rakes of discovery to uncover the true nature of our history to understand from where we originate and how to grow forward. How do we persevere ahead if much of our past is buried beneath our eyes, concealing the extent of the matter we must face? How does our next generation fix our problems if the unbiased truth is obscured from their textbooks, certain novels banned from our shelves? These are the issues of obscurity we must face: confronting our troubled past head-on is adverse yet crucial to being able to truly understand the depth of the root causes of the issues plaguing our state.   

However, not all problems lie in the artfully concealed truths about the derogatory nature of our past; also buried are many of the heroes, innovators, leaders, and changemakers who came before us. The brave African Americans who strode up to the Whites-only counter at Woolworths, sacrificing all they had to do what they could to make a dent in the systematic segregation and racism deeply ingrained in our society. The teachers who did their best to motivate and inspire the next leaders of our states, believing not in the Corridor of Shame but the alleyway of opportunity. They nurture our roots as we sink deeper into the soil, providing us with examples of what can be achieved, of the power of overcoming the brutality of our past. It is a true shame that many of these changemakers lie buried in the soil of history when featured and recognized are the pioneers of this very discrimination and racism, prominently written about in South Carolina history textbooks. We now have the power to change that if we choose to commit to the process of painful discovery, collectively undergoing research to recognize and learn from the legacy of these changemakers in the way that they deserve.   

Unfortunately, weeds of hatred are also growing in our garden and competing with us for the opportunity to influence our state’s larger image. Always existent in a population are the pessimists and the close-minded, those who angrily voice hatred and racism where we desire innovation and justice towards a better future. While it is impossible to fully eradicate these seeds of negativity from our society, we each have the power to crane our stems towards the sun, working together to grow taller and spread our ideas further. Collectively, we hold in our seeds the power to germinate and transform from seedlings struggling to survive in downtrodden fields into bursting blooms, so big that we overshadow the weeds of our society and illuminate our state with positive change. As the current generation of South Carolinians, it is now up to us to decide how we will lay the groundwork of the harvest, our success dependent on our efforts to discover, deconstruct, and develop.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.