Mo Green at Elon Law: Education is the civil rights issue of our time

Delivering the keynote address at Elon Law’s eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. forum, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green urged greater engagement by communities and future lawyers to strengthen educational systems and expressed excitement about Elon Law’s role in Guilford County’s Say Yes to Education partnership.

Maurice "Mo" Green, superintendent of Guilford County Schools, at Elon Law, Feb. 13, 2016
At the January 13 luncheon at Elon Law, Green encouraged law students to think about the purpose of their education.

“It has got to be much more than simply the acquisition of knowledge and information,” Green said. “That is, while great and important, insufficient for what you will be called upon to do as lawyers.”

Surveying legal aspects of American civil rights history, Green argued that lawyers must examine the context of laws, why they were made and the impacts they have on people and communities, and then take action to advance the law in ways that further justice and equality.

“We are obligated to take action,” Green said, reflecting on his decision to shift from traditional law practice to public education administration. “I have had the wonderful opportunity to be involved in what I believe is the number one civil rights issue in this country, the education of our tomorrows.”

Green noted that Elon Law will be connected to Guilford County’s Say Yes to Education partnership. He discussed that partnership as an opportunity for law students to make a difference in the lives of individuals and families in the region.

“The law school here has been and will be connected to Say Yes to Education,” Green said. “I think that this is going to become a phenomenal opportunity for lawyers and law students to do things that I think will be impactful to our families as they struggle through their day to day existence in trying to help their young people get the kind of education they deserve. There will be law students and lawyers that I think will be able to get engaged with individual families and help them navigate a complex system. Within the school system and within our community there are things that are barriers to their education that I think lawyers will be able to help with. We have got a lot of students that deal with immigration issues. We have got housing issues that families have to grapple with that impact their ability to allow their kids to receive the education they so richly deserve. Stay tuned. I believe this law school is in a perfect place to do some dramatic things with families.”

In welcoming remarks Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman congratulated Green for taking on his next challenge as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and described Green as a creative visionary, a problem solver and a thoughtful leader concerned about social justice issues.

Concluding his remarks, Green quoted the following remarks of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a speech about desegregating schools that the civil rights leader made before an audience of young people on April 18, 1959:

“Whatever career you may choose for yourself—doctor, lawyer, teacher—let me propose an avocation to be pursued along with it. Become a dedicated fighter for civil rights. Make it a central part of your life. It will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher. It will enrich your spirit as nothing else possibly can. It will give you that rare sense of nobility that can only spring from love and selflessly helping your fellow man. Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

About Maurice “Mo” Green

In 2008, Maurice Green was named superintendent of Guilford County Schools, the third largest district in North Carolina with more than 72,000 students, 10,000 full- and part-time employees, 127 schools and a budget of more than $686 million.

Under Green’s leadership, the district has raised its graduation rate, student achievement on test scores and scholarship dollars for graduating seniors, while improving confidence and engagement in the school system among stakeholders. Green has been instrumental in attracting major investments to benefit Guilford County School students, including a $30 million federal Race to the Top-District grant and more than $30 million in private donations that enabled Guilford to become the third school district in the nation to be selected a Say Yes to Education community.

Green holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics and a law degree, both from Duke University. Upon graduating from law school, Green served in clerkships with Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, and Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. After completing these clerkships, Green joined the law firm of Smith Helms Mulliss & Moore LLP, where he was named partner after six years. In 2001, Green joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, first as General Counsel and then as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Superintendent.

Green currently serves as vice president of the board of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. He also serves on the board for the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, an institute with the Education Commission of the States. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., he has received numerous honors and awards for his work, service and leadership.  

Elon Law’s eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Forum was also the concluding event of the law school’s Public Law & Leadership course, in which all second-year law students work in teams to help nonprofit organizations with legal case studies related to their public service missions.