This is the stuff legends - and Titans - are made of
By Lynn R. Parks
North Carolina native Herman Boone grew up in what he calls the "Jim Crow south." But despite that, "I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body," he said.
That statement was one of several that inspired applause at Saturday night's dinner held at the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club as part of the annual Festival For Youth. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit all Boys and Girls Clubs in Kent and Sussex counties.
Boone, the coach whose winning season at T. C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Va., is portrayed in the Disney movie "Remember the Titans," was the keynote speaker. "Yes, my name is Herman Boone," he introduced himself to the over 320 people who crowded into the club's gym. "And if you watch
the movie, you will see that I am better looking than Denzil Washington," he joked. Washington played the role of Boone in the movie.
Also taking the podium Saturday night was Bill Yoast, the white coach who, following integration of Alexandria's high schools, was replaced by Boone.
"Race relations are still a problem today," said Yoast, who lives in Bethany Beach. "Why has it taken so long for them to be solved? Because people resist change."
Yoast talked about the necessity of reaching out to others in the community in order to reduce tension between races. He also discussed the waste generated by animosity based on race.
Boone called "Remember the Titans" a "fascinating" movie. "And it's true," he added. "Not that every word is true, but we worked very hard to make sure that it was accurate."
He said that he was happy to be a part of the filming. "We truly wanted the film to make a difference," he said.
During the football season portrayed in the movie, "the players developed friendships that transcended prejudice. Alexandria was one of the few cities that did not burn down in the South, and that was because of the Titans."
Boone urged the young people in the audience to make good choices as they go through life. "Knowledge is a prerequisite to harmony," he said.
He also praised the state's football coaches, seven of whom were honored Saturday night for having over 30 years on the gridiron. "We still need the John Hollises of the world," he said, referring to the director of resource development for Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware and a former football coach for Seaford High School. "We still need all the coaches. The children are one acorn; the children are one seed. But without water, they will not grow. The coaches and the parents provide the water."
In introducing the speakers, Hollis called "Remember the Titans" a movie "about real-life pain, about prejudice and about victory." He added, "People have said that football is just life with the volume turned up, and I wholeheartedly agree."
Also speaking Saturday night was Nadine Faustin, a hurdler who was a quarterfinalist in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, representing Haiti. As a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Faustin was All-American in the NCAA indoor championships, competing in the 60-meter hurdles, and was in the top 16 in the NCAA outdoor championships in the 100-meter hurdles. She graduated in 1998 and is ranked 19th in the world in the 100-meter hurdles. She lives in Raleigh, N.C.
"Children, please continue to work hard," she said. "Never give up your focus. And parents, continue to support your children mentally, physically and spiritually. Your dream can become a reality. Just find it and take it."
Luke Petitgout, starting right tackle for the New York Giants, also spoke. Petitgout played football for Sussex Central High School, Georgetown, and then for Notre Dame. In 1999, he was the No. 1 draft choice of the Giants.
"Work hard, and be determined," he told the audience. "Set goals higher than you want them to be."
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