FHS Senior, Amanda Wylie, First Recipient of Brooke Scholarship


Among the scholarships awarded last night at Franklin High School, was the Sen. Edward W. Brooke Scholarship, awarded by the Franklin Republican Town Committee to senior Amanda Wylie. Above, (L to R) Paul Santorsola, Vice Chair, Ms. Wylie, Ray Fioravanti, Treasuter, and Regis Schratz, Member. {More info on other other scholarships pending release of transcript)

Award Winning Scholarship Essay on Sen. Brooke

by Amanda Wylie

Asked whether or not they’re familiar with the work of Senator Edward Brooke, Franklin High
School students would almost unanimously reply in the negative. There is no mention of the man (who served in the Senate from 1967 to 1979) in our history curriculum, not even in the deep-diving, two-year AP United States History course. Yet Senator Brooke was one of the most influential Massachusetts politicians of the last century, and his legacy continues to shape American politics today.

Brooke was a pioneer, becoming both the first African-American to serve as Attorney General in
any state and the first African-American popularly elected to the United States Senate. His historic 1967 election prompted TIME Magazine to argue he had won himself "a 50-state constituency, a power base that no other Senator can claim." But Brooke didn’t want to be known solely because of his race, commenting, "I do not intend to be a national leader of the Negro people." Instead, Brooke was always on the lookout for ways to defend and advance his entire constituency.

What were some of his accomplishments? Brooke played a vital role in the enactment of the
Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which guaranteed married women the right to establish credit in their own name. He also worked to retain Title IX, helping to prevent gender discrimination in educational institutions and school-sponsored athletics. In 1972, when this amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 was first passed, only 43% of college students were women. Today, they make up 59.5% of the U.S. collegiate population. Though the pendulum may be swinging too far, it is certainly heartening to see that the educational floodgates have burst open, thanks in large part to the efforts of Brooke and his colleagues.

One of Brooke’s best qualities was having the courage to admit he was mistaken on certain issues and publicly change his stance. During the Vietnam War, Brooke initially argued for increased negotiations with the North Vietnamese rather than an escalation of the fighting. 

However, after a three-week fact-finding mission in the country, he reversed his position, making national headlines for his claim that “the enemy is not disposed to participate in any meaningful negotiations.” It’s admirable that the senator was determined to personally gather the truth to inform his position, and even more admirable that he was willing to publicly share his change of opinion on such a contentious issue.

Brooke wasn’t afraid to follow his conscience, even if it meant going against the general
consensus of his party. For instance, the Republican senator was not afraid to voice his opposition to two of President Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations -- Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell -- organizing bipartisan support to defeat their Senate confirmations. Brooke was also the first Republican to publicly call on Nixon to resign [in the wake of Watergate]. Clearly, Brooke was a free-thinker with a strong moral compass.

America is in desperate need of more politicians of his ilk, ones who consistently fight for what they believe will be best for their country no matter the ramifications for their future political career.

Throughout his life, Brooke strove to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Massachusetts citizens and Americans as a whole. His legacy is one of a changemaker, a negotiator, and perhaps most importantly, a collaborator, bringing together people with very different political ideologies to fight for progress. It is our job as Massachusetts students to ensure this inspiring legislator is not overlooked or forgotten.

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