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UC marks 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act

Los Angeles Times writer Patt Morrison moderated a panel discussion at the Morrill Act celebration.
At a gathering on the west lawn of the state Capitol on Monday, University of California President Mark G. Yudof called the Morrill Act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, "A catalyst that transformed the United States." The legislation provided federal land to states to build universities that would extend to more Americans educational opportunities in agriculture and the mechanical arts. The act launched the University of California.

Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison moderated a panel discussion at the event, and wrote a post about the Morrill Act sesquicentennial on the newspaper's Opinion L.A. blog today.

Morrison asked Abraham Lincoln, portrayed at the event by lanky Sonoma County teacher Roger Vincent, "President Lincoln - the opportunity for every American to go to college? Really?" He nodded.

"'What a snob,' I remarked," Morrison wrote in her post, a reference, she said, to former senator and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum gibing at President Obama’s goal of making a college education available to all Americans.

When Lincoln was president, 50 percent of Americans were involved in producing food. A steady movement away from the occupation has created significant challenges and opportunities for the agriculture industry.

"Americans may be even more aware of what they eat, the panelists noted, with the growth of popularity of organic foods and health-conscious diets like First Lady Michelle Obama’s, but even less aware of where food comes from and how it gets from field to plate," Morrison wrote.

Yudof and UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and leader of ANR's Sustainable Farming Systems Strategic Initiative, made speeches. The texts of their presentations are linked below.

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 2:15 PM

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