Thompson is the longest serving black official in the state of Mississippi.
“For Delta State University to have the nerve to talk about race and diversity in the Mississippi is something to be proud of. The most difficult thing to talk about in America is race,” said Thompson.
He then discussed that he felt the need to push for integration and racial equality when he noticed the differences in his school and schools white students attended.
Thompson said when he attended Bolton Colored Schools as a child he never had a new textbook and that in his entire educational career he never had a new textbook.
It was during his time at Bolton Colored School that he looked in one of his textbooks and saw all of the spots for names of ownership had been filled in, when he finally asked a teacher who the names belonged to.
“I was always one or two presidents behind in my history textbooks and one or two state senators behind in my Mississippi History books,” Thompson said.
Thompson discussed his time in politics and his first ever campaign work on the Fannie Lou Hamer campaign and then shifted his discussion back to what seemed to be the hot topic throughout the conference — education equality.
“For blacks and whites it’s still a very sore issue. We have to build on what happened the past to move forward,” he said.
Thompson stressed the importance of fully funding public education in the state in order to give all children of all races a chance at a good education. He also mentioned the importance of Pell grants to give more students the funds to attend college to do the fact that not everyone can get a scholarship and there aren’t enough scholarships for everyone.
“I want everyone to have the opportunity to be the best they can be. I want the best for the little black kid and the little white kid; they both ought to have the same opportunities to be the best they can be,” he added.
Thompson then shifted to the importance of creating opportunities to retain the talented people on Mississippi and explained that many of the top doctors in the country are originally from Mississippi.
“Many of us left the state because of its history and for too long we exported our best product, and that was our educated citizens. What we have to do is create an opportunity to retain a lot of that talent that has left; we need to get it back. For a long time we had more African American doctors practicing in Los Angeles, Calif., from Mississippi than we had black doctors practicing in Mississippi. What we have to do is to keep that talent the best we can at home.”
Thompson pointed to DSU President Bill LaForge sitting next to him.
“We have a perfect example right here. We sent him away to get scrubbed up but we brought him back. That’s the kind of talent we have to have if we’re going to move forward in the Delta and so I’m happy to see so many (strong opionated people) in the audience today. Your mayor is just like every other mayor I run into; he always wants something. That’s why you put those people in these positions,” he added.
The session was ended by Thompson answering questions from the panel as well as from members of the audience.
When asked how does he not resent others for what has been done to him in his life and for how his education was affected, Thompson replied, “You can’t go forward holding a grudge, you can only make sure things like this never happen again...we can’t miss anymore opportunities and we can’t play catch up…we need to have a system that accepts people as who and what they are.”