Thursday, November 09, 2006

George Esser: Helping the strong grow greatest

George Esser: Helping the strong grow greatest
Those who knew the late George Esser -- he died this week at 85 -- recall what an important contribution he made in North Carolina in the early years of the state’s campaign against poverty. A Virginia native, VMI graduate and Harvard Law grad, Esser was working at what is now the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill when Terry Sanford asked him in 1963 to direct the North Carolina Fund.
As Sanford put it in a speech at Harvard 43 years ago next week, the fund was set up with $10 million in grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock foundations to support efforts to turn around the cycle of poverty. “We expect to say to the superintendent of schools, to the directors of welfare, officials of public health, city and county government, social agencies, that we need to work together; let’s pick out a few neighborhoods to see what we can do to stop the cycle of poverty which blights the lives of so many of these young people.”
At another speech in the fall of 1963, the official “Papers of Terry Sanford” relates, Sanford said the point was to train children “so that they would not become parents of poverty. The state’s official toast called North Carolina a land ‘where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great’; Gov. Sanford concluded by saying ‘that the strong grow greatest by helping to lift up the weak.’”
Here’s a link to the Associated Press obituary on Esser.

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