On November 1, 2014, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education presented Tom Lambeth with the Peabody Award, the School's highest honor. Recipients are recognized for their work, achievements and contributions to the School of Education.
Lambeth, along with six other distinguished alumni, accepted the award during an annual dinner celebration in Chapel Hill. His remarks are below.
I am truly humbled by this award. The other awardees make me so. I know there are always questions about how genuine such a statement is, but I truly mean it.
Let's just say that, at an early age, I fell in with a good crowd. Some of them are here tonight.
Earlier this week, Donna and I had the wonderful experience of seeing our friend Ed Wilson receive the annual Caldwell Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. Ed is Mr. Wake Forest, longtime teacher and a former Provost, who is beloved by all who know him.
He accepted the award by paying tribute to the teachers who had taught him in the public schools of what was then Leaksville, North Carolina. He thanked them all by name and with an explanation of their impact on his life. The last on the list was Mr. Jones who taught North Carolina history.
"Mr. Jones," Ed said, "would start every class by saying 'the public schools are the glory of North Carolina.'"
He was right. The public schools are the glory of North Carolina. It is a thing to remember sitting in this room near a parking lot under which archaeologists tell us are the ruins of New Hope Chapel which stood on this hill – hence the name of this town – and near where the people of North Carolina built a university. When they did that as the first act of a new state, it was a truly audacious act. The idea that the people could build a university that was both accessible and excellent.
Now we pursue the audacious idea – made a constitutional mandate by the Supreme Court of North Carolina – that every child in North Carolina is guaranteed a sound basic education.
This School of Education and so many of you in this room are part of that glory.
I have always loved the statement of a man from small town, rural Texas – Sam Rayburn – about the meaning of public service. That powerful Speaker of the U.S. House was given to simple but sound opinions about public life and he declared many years ago "any jackass can kick a barn down; it takes a carpenter to build one."
This is a place of carpenters and there are plenty of them in this room. Thank you for that and thank you for your commitment to building sound and sturdy barns in the hearts and minds of the youth of North Carolina.