Ms. Bridges Goes to Washington
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 06:00 AM
Last month, President Obama installed Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" in a hallway just outside the Oval Office.
The iconic painting shows Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, being escorted by US Marshals to school during the 1960 integration of the New Orleans school system. Bridges wears a crisp white dress with socks and sneakers — she looks unfazed even as a tomato splatters on the graffiti-pocked wall behind her. Now, the first black president of the United States must pass the same racial epithet en route to work each day.
Bridges, now 56, lobbied for the painting to be moved to the White House. She told Politico it would be "a great way for Obama to say to anyone who comes to his office: 'This is what I'm about.'"
When Bridges visited the painting in its new (temporary) home, President Obama thanked her: "I think it's fair to say that if it hadn't been for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn't be looking at this together."
"Just having him say that meant a lot to me," Bridges says. "To be standing shoulder to shoulder with history, and viewing history — it's just once in a lifetime."
The child psychiatrist Robert Coles remembers meeting Ruby Bridges in 1960. He was studying children in crisis, he explains in an interview for Studio 360. "I wanted to know, as a shrink would, or as a fellow human being would want to know, how she was getting through this with such apparent dignity, and even a kind of calm. ... And she said, 'Well, I always pray for them. ... Don't you think they need praying for?'"
Listen to his full story here:
Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" (1963)