Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, 2005

01-19-2005

I want to share some of my reflections on the events that were part of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this past Monday. First of all, I want to congratulate the students and the MLK Commemorative Planning Committee for putting together such a meaningful program.

The Student Leadership Conference in the morning was very well done. High school students from area public schools in Flint, Detroit and Saginaw were invited to join us this year.

The breakout sessions were full of ideas—any student would benefit from participating in this event next year. Also, the community dinner hosted a capacity crowd in Akers Hall. Housing and Food Services did an outstanding job.

The march from Beaumont Tower to the Wharton Center was better attended than I thought it might be. Despite the frigid temperatures, people not only showed up, but they brought their children.

I have to recognize the zeal of Lee June and his words at Beaumont Tower. Reciting excerpts of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and clearly speaking from both the head and the heart, Lee reminded us that those famous few lines were neither the entire text, nor Dr. King’s entire message. His passion and his ability to place Dr. King’s remarks into a historical context really resonated with the students, faculty and members of the community who were there.

I was surprised when Paulette Granberry Russell announced that I was the first MSU president in memory to actually march from Beaumont to Wharton. I was pleased that we could do it as a community. And I’m pretty sure I was the only president to make the march wearing an aviator’s cap with earflaps. It was cold!

But the program at Wharton warmed us all. The excerpts from the play “Blues for Mr. Charlie” were very, very powerful and the discussion afterwards was important to underscore that James Baldwin’s play is based on tragic real-life events that happened in 1955. It was hard-hitting and moving. When the MSU Department of Theatre presents the play in its entirety this February, I encourage everyone to go see it.

For me, Monday was a day rich with inspiration, food for thought and fellowship. It’s the kind of day that makes me even prouder to be a member of this MSU community.

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