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Former Kentucky Senator Inspires Students

On February 21, Berea College hosted Ms. Georgia Montgomery Powers, a revolutionary who became the first black woman to be elected to the Kentucky Senate.

Former Senator Powers talked with students after convo.

During her speech during the annual Carter G. Woodson convocation, Powers stressed to students how important it was to "find yourself" before tackling larger problems in life. “To be successful, we must know the right questions to ask and know the right answers to give. And we must also know ourselves,” she said. But the former Senator certainly didn’t stop there as she gave a highly inspirational speech about the significance of what has been done, but also not forgetting to always look ahead. Powers proclaimed, “The most important thing we can do is to remember the past, examine the present and plan the future.”

Born in Springfield, Kentucky on October 19, 1923, Powers spent the early stages of her life near home as she became more and more active in the civil rights movement, eventually becoming one of the leaders of various events in Kentucky. In 1964, she was one of the key organizers of a statewide rally which was in support of a law to make public accommodations readily available to everyone, not just to whites. This particular rally also brought the appearance of other major civil rights leaders such as Jackie Robinson and even Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Three years later Powers began her long stint in the Kentucky Senate and she pushed for many laws regarding color, women and the poor. She finally retired from a very active and productive political career in 1988.

However, if her speech made anything clear, it was that she is still concerned with the growing issues of the country and is constantly looking for a better way of dealing with them. She expressed her support for “Barack 'change-you-can-believe-in' Obama,” which generated huge cheers from the huge audience that packed Phelps-Stokes auditorium. She was also able to relate very well to the audience, which was almost entirely consisted of Berea students. Powers discussed how amazed she still is by the turnout of the present generation in regards to the voting of caucuses, primaries and the overall concern they have for the current presidential campaign. Although she continues to tackle these gigantic, nationwide issues, she also hones them in particularly on what they mean for the state of Kentucky and its citizens.

While explaining her ascent into the political system of the United States, Powers said, “No one thought that I could win. But I knew that I could, and that’s all that mattered. Follow your mind and dream and just do it.” Overall, Powers showed Berea students exactly what was very much in their grasp: The ability to change the world in a positive way. This was best shown in her final words of the day, “Yes we can!”

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