Lemoyne-Owen College president 'curiously optimistic' about White House visit

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - LeMoyne-Owen College president Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller was among more than 80 historically black college and university presidents who met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

President Trump signed an executive order aimed at signaling his commitment to HBCUs.

"Well at first it gave me pause," LeMoyne-Owen College Student Government Association President Isaac Freeman said.

WMC Action News 5's Jerica Phillips sat down with student leaders who were skeptical about Trump's sincerity but declared their support for Dr. Miller's decision to attend the meeting.

"Even if it was just for photo-op, we did our part," said Raven Granberry, founder of an organization on campus known as Powerful Women of Color. 

"I do believe that we should definitely move with caution," Freeman said.

Dr. Miller has been president at LeMoyne-Owen College for a year and a half. She said her meeting with President Trump wasn't personal; instead, it was a representation of everyone on the campus, from the student body to the administration.

Miller was still traveling on business Wednesday but released the following statement about her visit to Washington:

"I was curious to hear President Trump's vision regarding his administration's support of HBCUs, especially as it relates to ensuring we not only survive, but also thrive as we continue our mission of transformation through education. There remains an opportunity divide in our country between minorities and the majority. As long as that exists, we cannot reach our greatest potential as a nation, and that is why HBCUs are so critical to our country's continued prosperity. HBCUs were founded to provide what I consider a basic, fundamental right—the right to be educated and to realize your best self through knowledge. HBCUs were established to bridge an unconscionable divide and were the only choice for freedmen and runaway slaves to have a chance to thrive in the brave new world that emerged after The Civil War and the abolition of slavery. That historical significance cannot be denied or diminished. Today, HBCUs are no less necessary or significant. We are the school of choice for thousands of college-bound students, including many of whom are the first in their family to go to college. While our students make up only about three percent of the higher education student population in America, we graduate over 20 percent of African Americans with bachelor's degrees and more than half of those who earn doctoral degrees. That's an impact that cannot be denied or ignored; but rather must be acknowledged, nurtured and advanced.  President Trump's invitation was welcome and I remain cautiously optimistic. I hope our visit is only the beginning of what will be a relationship based on enlightenment and marked by empowerment and progress."

Many of the college presidents also lobbied on Capitol Hill for more funding.

Freeman and Granberry believe the HBCU meeting with President Trump is a step towards inclusion.

"I think the best way to view it is that we are fighting for what we have come through, what we're going through, and to keep HBCUs alive," Granberry said.

"Shirley Chisholm once said that if they don't allow you at the table, bring a folding chair and that's exactly what Dr. Miller is doing," Freeman said.

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