The civic education organization “Wyoming We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” have recognized University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman for his civic leadership in bringing members of the Black 14 back to the University of Wyoming campus in the fall of 2019 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the events that took place on the University of Wyoming campus in the fall of 1969.
The plaque recognizing Burman reads: “Wyoming We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution does hereby commend Mr. Tom Burman, Director of Athletics, University of Wyoming, ‘For his courageous leadership in promoting the understanding of the fundamental principles embodied in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.” The plaque also includes a photo of the nine members of the Black 14 who returned to the UW campus in the fall of 2019.
The leadership board of Wyoming We the People selected Burman for their Citizenship Award. In the 33 years of the organization at the state level in Wyoming, only five of these awards for significant contribution as a citizen have been presented.
University of Wyoming Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator China Jude accepted the award on behalf of Burman on Monday, Jan. 13. John Griffin, a member of the Black 14, was asked to present the award on behalf of Wyoming We the People. Matt Strannigan, Wyomng State Coordinator for We the People, was also on hand for the presentation.
“It is an honor to receive this award,” said Burman. “I feel that I am representing so many at the University of Wyoming who played a part in bringing the Black 14 back to campus last fall. In my mind, we played a small role in building a bridge that had been fractured for nearly 50 years. I am proud to call the members of the Black 14 Cowboys!”
The Wyoming football program had become nationally recognized during the 1960s and were consistently ranked in the Top 25 teams in the nation from 1966 to midway through the 1969 season, reaching a high ranking of No. 6 in the final Associated Press poll in 1967. With an experienced team in 1969, the Cowboys appeared to be a lock to dominate the Western Athletic Conference once again, setting their sights on even more national recognition.
But, the 14 UW players were dismissed from the team by head football Coach Lloyd Eaton at midseason, leading up to the game versus BYU for wanting to ask for permission to protest the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints policy of prohibiting black persons from attaining the priesthood. The UW players planned to wear black armbands during the game against BYU.
Wyoming We the People were invited to collaborate with UW on the celebration of the Black 14 in the fall of 2019 and the group conducted a seminar on the First Amendment in conjunction with the week of activities. The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Black 14 included an unveiling on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, of a plaque on the southeast side of War Memorial Stadium, honoring those 14 black football student-athletes.
Leading up to the commemoration, Burman had this to say, “We are thrilled to welcome the members back to campus to honor them during this 50th commemoration. We believe this event serves multiple purposes: education, healing and learning how to move forward effectively as we support our current students and celebrate our alumni community.”
The We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program promotes civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s upper elementary and secondary students. The We the People textbooks’ and enhanced ebooks’, interactive strategies, relevant content and the simulated congressional hearing make teaching and learning exciting for both students and teachers. The We the People curriculum is an innovative course of instruction on the history and principles of the United States constitutional democratic republic. The program enjoys active support from state bar associations and foundations,and other educational, professional, business and community organizations across the nation. Since its inception in 1987, more than 30 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in the We the People program.
Burman’s recognition took place during this year’s Wyoming We the People 2019 Congressional State Finals held on Monday, Jan. 13 at the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne. Seventeen high school classes and over four-hundred students competed at the District Competition in Casper on Monday, Dec. 16 for the opportunity to advance to the state finals. The top six schools from the District event that advanced to the State Finals, in alphabetical order, were Casper Kelly Walsh, Cheyenne East, Green River, Jackson, Laramie and Sheridan.
Students presented their learning in simulated congressional hearings in two rounds of hearings in a full morning of competition. The highest scoring class and the runner-up received invites to represent Wyoming at the National Finals in Washington, D.C. on April 24-27th. Sheridan won the state title, with Jackson finishing as the runner-up. Students studied for months to prepare for their role as experts testifying on selected constitutional issues.
Matt Strannigan (State Coordinator), Brian Farmer (Congressional District Coordinator) and Richard Kean (Project Citizen State Coordinator) administer the We the People program at the state level. The goal of the program is “to develop students as informed and responsible, participating citizens. The program incorporates research, writing, and critical thinking with a culminating performance assessment that measures real understanding of concepts inherent to the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”