"Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."
- Omar Bradley
Omar Bradley, known as the "G.I.'s General," was the last American general to earn five stars. He was the senior American commander during the invasion of Europe that began with the D-Day landings in Normandy. He recaptured Paris, and his army linked up with the Soviet allies on the Elbe river.
After the war, he was put in charge of the Department of Veteran's Affairs. A year earlier, in 1944, Congress passed sweeping legislation concerning the millions of returning veterans. The veterans of WWI had been dissatisfied with their treatment postwar, and this bill sought to avoid the same mistakes.
Hailing from a poor background, smiling, and remarkably humble for a general (he rarely issued an order without saying "please"), General Bradley was extremely popular with his soldiers and with the American people. He would prove to be difficult to oppose; his administration of the G.I. Bill was generous, almost without precedent.
In the post-war years, almost half of all college students were veterans funded by the G.I. Bill. The government had calculated that only 10% of the returning veterans would use the college scholarships, but over half did. The number and percent of college educated Americans soared by the 1950s, creating the world's first mass middle class.
African American veterans were extended the benefits as well; Jim Crow laws prevented them from attending certain white universities, particularly in the South. Nevertheless, the number of African American college graduates exploded, and these graduates would be the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement.
The perception of college altered forever. Before the G.I. Bill, college was for the very elite, and the curriculum was purely academic.
This Bill was the first time the federal government had played a large role in education.
Later this year, the U.S. will "celebrate" its 12th year of war. Are there any heroic figures like General Omar Bradley to help us in the post-war years?
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