Great strides have been made toward equal rights for all mankind thanks to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but there is still a long way to go to carry on his legacy.
“This evening the torch has been passed,” Dr. Todd Allen told a large crowd at Grove City College’s Harbison Chapel on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Allen, a professor of communications at Geneva College, was the guest speaker at Monday’s event celebrating King, which was hosted by the GCC Chapel Program and Students Excited About Diversity, or S.E.A.D.
Part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was played early in the service, during which many in the crowd bowed their heads, reflecting on the words as they echoed through the chapel.
King, a great orator, was considered by many to be a Communist and radical, even unpatriotic and unChristian, simply because of his beliefs and his work, Allen said.
So many place King on a pedestal, leading them to believe they can never do the great things he did, but he had his own failures right along with his successes, just like every human being, he noted.
“It’s important that we remember Dr. King was not perfect,” he said. “But Dr. King reminded us anybody can be great.”
And King didn’t necessarily see himself as a civil rights leader and preacher, which is how he is often identified. King liked to describe himself as a clergyman influenced by the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Allen said.
Today we’re really honoring a movement, not just a man, since King once asked that others who supported his efforts also be remembered long after he was gone, like young students willing to go to jail for standing their ground, or the Little Rock Nine, or those whose names aren’t in the history books, Allen said of King’s wishes.
“Along this journey to freedom we lost many people,” he said, reading a list of names of people who died while fighting for justice and peace.
Freedom is not free, and while problems like prejudice, discrimination, homelessness, unemployment and poverty still exist, this country needs to keep pushing forward with King’s ideas like that of the “beloved community,” Allen said.
A step in that direction can produce reconciliation, redemption and exuberant goodwill, leading to simple, decent places for people to live.
“Reconciliation is the only way to peace,” he said, echoing King’s words.
Allen recited King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, one of his last before he was killed, and it describes how King wanted to be remembered as a drum major for peace, righteousness and truth, especially since the shallow things in life won’t matter when you reach the other side.
“We’re only here for a little while, just passing through,” Allen said, closing his speech with a prayer.
Others speakers included: David Elkoms, a member of S.E.A.D. Leadership who led the crowd in the opening prayer after the singing of the hymn “In Christ There Is No East or West;” Natalia Harris, a graduate assistant for Multicultural Education and Initiatives; student Brittany Morales; and GCC President Dr. Richard Jewell.
Issues of race may not be part of your daily life, but if you’re in the minority, it can be a constant burden, but there’s a lot to learn from the experience like empathy and critical thinking, Morales said.
Jewell, who said he’s an advocate for having a diverse campus, said King has put a mirror up to our faces and challenged us to cash in the promise of equality from so long ago, and it’s an enormous pressure for anyone to take on.
“It’s a miracle to me he lived as long as he did,” Jewell said. “We are so blessed to be here tonight.”
Published Jan. 22, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.