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Takeaways from Tallahassee — From one room to No. 1

Good morning, Tallahassee

Florida A&M University — one of the nation’s best-known historical Black colleges — celebrated its 135th birthday this past week. But the good news doesn’t end there.

Good Morning America will film from FAMU’s campus during homecoming.

Homecoming Week begins Oct. 22, and GMA will broadcast live from the campus that Friday and Saturday.

FAMU recently celebrated Founder’s Day. Now America gets to take a peek at campus. Image via FAMU/Glenn Beil.

“Our Rattlers come from all over the world to come back here, but to allow the rest of the world to see some of the wonderful festivities and hear about the rich culture and outstanding accomplishments of our graduates and current students at FAMU, you can’t ask for anything better,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said in a video.

Producers and staff traveled to Tallahassee to tour the campus this week. But the festivities also come as FAMU celebrates a landmark year.

“We celebrate the courage and vision of our founders, and the dedication of every faculty, staff, student, and alumni who contributed to the well-being of this institution throughout its 135-year journey,” Robinson said on Monday during a wreath-laying ceremony to mark Founder’s Day, the school’s official birthday.

FAMU started as a one-room school on Oct. 3, 1887, as the State Normal School for Colored Students with just two instructors and 15 students. FAMU now has nearly 10,000 students and is the highest ranked Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation in the most recent rankings released by U.S News and World Report’s Best Colleges.

“Can you imagine how proud our founders are as they look upon us from above at what has been achieved along our journey,” Robinson asked during his remarks this week. “They would be proud of our historic and ongoing battle against injustice and as our mission statement today states: they would be proud of our commitment to enhance the lives of its constituents and empower communities through innovative teaching, research, scholarship, partnerships, and public service.”

Robinson said that FAMU’s goals include becoming a top 100 public university and a top-flight research university.

“It is both remarkable and amazing how far FAMU has come from its early existence to this present time. This land once served as a plantation. A place where darkness prevailed,” Robinson said. “Today, this is the site where hope, love and charity rule the day and is blanketed by the comforting light and warmth of the Eternal Flame. We must never take any of this for granted.”

FAMU Student Government President Zachary C. Bell called the 135th anniversary “a full circle moment.”

“Our founders are smiling down on us,” said Bell, a fourth-year business student from Jacksonville. “I can’t wait to see the great things that are coming from FAMU.”


Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Joe Biden visits Hurricane Ian destruction — President Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis, frequent political foes, put their political differences aside Wednesday when the Democratic President and possible Republican presidential contender shook hands in Fort Myers. Biden said it was clear after a short aerial tour that the state and federal government will need to cooperate long term. He predicted recovery from the storm won’t last days and weeks, but rather months and years. Biden also gave DeSantis’ hurricane response his stamp of approval. “What the Governor’s done is pretty remarkable so far,” Biden said.

Ben Sasse named lone finalist for UF President — Sasse, a Republican U.S. Senator representing Nebraska, is set to become a Florida man — the sole recommended candidate to become the President of the University of Florida. UF’s Board of Trustees will consider his appointment at its next meeting in November. He’s expected to visit the campus on Monday. “The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” Sasse said in a statement. Legislation passed last Session puts candidates for the top jobs at the state’s universities and colleges under wraps until the presidential search committee is ready to announce the finalists.

DeSantis, Charlie Crist debate postponed — DeSantis and Crist’s only scheduled debate has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. The debate, hosted by CBC West Palm Beach affiliate WPEC-TV, was scheduled for Oct. 12 in Fort Pierce. Debate planners are working with both campaigns to secure a new debate date, expected sometime this month. Four years ago, DeSantis and Andrew Gillum held two debates within two weeks of Hurricane Michael’s landfall. However, neither candidate was directly involved in recovery efforts. Then-Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson postponed and eventually canceled their Senatorial debate, which was set for just six days after landfall.

Republicans, Black leaders denounce ad targeting Corey Simon — A growing list of Republicans, Black elected and Black community leaders have come out against a mailer sent by Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley’s campaign that targets Simon’s positions on gun control. Some say the mailer, which depicts the SD 3 GOP nominee on a shooting target, calls back to a racist history of Black men as physical targets or characterizations of Black men as violent. Among those calling for Democrats to apologize are Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo, Senate Majority Leader Mary Mayfield, Rep. Webster Barnaby and Bethel Missionary Baptist Church pastor Rev. R.B. Holmes.

Local projects in limbo, Ian funding considered — Lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Budget Commission last month approved $175 million for 238 local projects. But DeSantis didn’t send a necessary budget amendment, effectively placing the funds on hold. It’s unclear why DeSantis hasn’t sanctioned disbursement of the Local Support Grant funds. The budget panel is expected to sign off on spending $360 million in emergency funds during a special meeting Wednesday in order to help pay for the rapidly escalating cost to respond to Hurricane Ian. “While you pray they never come your way, disasters like Hurricane Ian are exactly what we had in mind when we set aside historic state reserves,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said.

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