Eugene Robinson (1970, SC)

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SOMEWHERE IN HIS HOUSE – he doesn’t know exactly where – Eugene Robinson keeps the Presidential Scholar memorabilia his late mother collected  during their trip to Washington, D.C., in 1970, when he graduated from Orangeburg High School in S.C. But he remembers only stray details of the events of that trip: He remembers meeting in the East Room of the White House, and being given his medal by a stand-in for President Richard Nixon. He also recalls that Sen. Strom Thurmond was particularly generous with him and South Carolina’s other two Scholars, treating them to lunch in the Senate Dining Room.

“I just don’t remember much about the affairs, honestly,” Robinson said. “I remember staying up way too late in the dorm and talking about Vietnam – which was really kind of thrilling, I think, for
the students, because these were smart kids from around the country, coming to Washington and getting to meet other smart kids who were aware and active, and having the kinds of conversations that, for me, were difficult to have in Orangeburg, S.C., which was a fairly out
of the way and a very conservative place.”