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My weekend with James Meredith

I’ll never forget the first conversation I had with James Meredith. I answered the phone and he mumbled softly, “Hello, this is James Meredith. Is this the president of the Ole Miss student body?” I replied, “Yes, this is.” I immediately stopped what I was doing and gave the phone my undivided attention. I could hardly believe James Meredith was actually on the phone. We talked for a while about my recent election, and he congratulated me on my success.  
He told me he would be coming to visit soon and that he was looking forward to meeting me. We ended our conversation, and I quite honestly never expected to hear from Mr. Meredith again. Well, that quickly changed when he came to campus for a surprise visit one Friday afternoon. Much of the campus was dead and many students were gone home for the weekend. I received a call from Lennie Patterson, who notified me that Mr. Meredith was on campus and was looking for me. I immediately dropped everything I was doing and ran to meet Mr. Meredith, who was was being taken around by Tirranny Nettles and Valeria Ross of the Dean of Students’ office.
I arrived at the new law school, which Mr. Meredith was touring for the first time.  I walked in the law school very nervous about what I was going to say. I felt like “hello” and “thank you” just weren’t enough. I searched for words, but I couldn’t find any, so I walked up to Mr. Meredith and said the first thing that came to my mind: “Hello, Mr. Meredith.” He looked up at me and said, “It’s the president.” We laughed and talked in the Ole Miss law school for a while. What I began with Mr. Meredith that day is something that I will never forget: a friendship.  
I dropped my schedule for the rest of the weekend and devoted myself to making Mr. Meredith’s visit the best at Ole Miss. I wanted to make that weekend special. The first thing we did was go to dinner at Ajax; after dinner, we walked around the Square. After walking for a while, I asked the Merediths (his wife Judy was there as well) what they wanted to do. Mr. Meredith looked at us and said, “DANCE!” I looked at my friend Lennie and told him, “Let’s get these folks somewhere they can dance,” so we went to Rooster’s Blues House. I’ll never forget how James Meredith and I got down on that dance floor! To me in that moment, it was just dancing, but now looking back on it, that moment was more significant than I’ll ever know.  
The weekend was finally coming to an end, and the Merediths had to go back to Jackson. Sunday, before the Merediths left, I planned a lunch at Oby’s. I wanted James Meredith to meet my sisters, so I invited some of my Phi Mu sisters as well. Introducing James Meredith to my sisters will always be something I will never forget. I joined a sorority at Ole Miss to share my life experiences and what matters to me most with a group of women, and that day introducing James Meredith to my sisters was a defining moment for me in my sisterhood. James Meredith was very intrigued by the fact that I was a Phi Mu at Ole Miss. He wasn’t the only one intrigued; my Phi Mu sisters were ecstatic to meet him. They were so honored that I had asked them to meet James Meredith. They knew that without the strides he and others took, I wouldn’t be their sister today.  
My weekend with James Meredith will be a weekend I cherish forever. The significance of that weekend cannot be defined in this article, for it would take pages upon pages. The friendship I have built with James Meredith and his family is very special to me. They encourage me and push me as a student to keep fighting for what I believe in and to make a difference in the world. The best advice James Meredith has ever given me was, “It’s up to you, Kim, to keep Mississippi moving forward. Your generation is key to the future of Mississippi.” I promised Mr. Meredith that weekend that I would always help Mississippi move forward.
 
Kimbrely Dandridge is a journalism senior from Senatobia.