Knox students and faculty, along with prospective students and their families and members of the Galesburg community, gathered on Monday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy.
After a short opening by Chair of Anthropology and Sociology Nancy Eberhardt, the Knox College Choir sang “Wade in the Water,” directed by visiting instructor and Director of Choirs Daniel McDavitt.
Both President Roger Taylor and Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde gave welcome addresses.
Taylor emphasized that it is fitting for Knox to recognize King and his accomplishments on this day, as the college was founded on, and continues to exemplify, principals of racial equality. He cited the Lincoln-Douglas debate, where Lincoln argued that slavery was unconstitutional.
Breitborde reiterated Knox’s commitment to equality, saying that Knox has “always viewed itself in terms of a larger mission.” Knox equips students to improve the community, both here in Galesburg and across the world.
He went on to recognize King’s focus on civility. He gave the example of a scene outside King’s home, where a large crowd had gathered. When the police commissioner was unable to get the crowd’s attention, King reminded the crowd of the importance of civility, encouraging them to listen to the commissioner. This, said Breitborde, is an example of how King encouraged respect.
Taylor and Breitborde both mentioned the recent tragedy in Tucson. Taylor referred to the people of many different races ethnicities who were involved in caring for the senator after the shooting, saying, “They urged us to be better.”
The convocation address, titled “The Civil Courage of Marin Luther King,” was given by Associate Professor of Political Science Duane Oldfield.
Oldfield began by saying that he hoped to look at King’s life on a deeper level in his speech, as King is often watered down, ignoring his more controversial opinions and protests, for example his opposition to the war in Vietnam and his advocacy for the poor.
Oldfield first highlighted King’s courage. King not only faced opposition from local and federal authorities but also from those who supported racial integration. King’s strategy of civil disobedience was not as widely practiced and accepted as it is now.
The second quality Oldfield addressed was King’s attitude of inclusion toward his opponents. He assumed that his opponents had a conscience and could be converted to his belief in equality. This was the basis for King’s strategy of bringing moral issues to light instead of letting people ignore them.
Many of today’s “troubling realities” are being ignored, Oldfield continued. His examples of these were the imprisonment of a large percentage of US citizens and global warming. Oldfield ended his address by encouraging everyone to “proceed in his [King’s] spirit” by fearlessly following their conscience, respecting those they disagree with, and refusing to let these realities be ignored.
After Oldfield’s address, Professor and Chair of Black Studies Frederick Hord read two of his poems. The first, “Beyond Vietnam,” highlighted the problem of inequality of wealth. His second poem was titled “Waiting for God(ot).”
Junior Monica Price read poetry as well, beginning with “Saba” by Henry Dumas. In her second poem, titled “Baal Ma,” Price wrote about a Muslim tradition of asking for forgiveness, which she experienced while studying abroad in Senegal.
The Convocation ended with the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” The entire crowd stood, clapping and singing this anthem, which has become a symbol, not only of the civil rights movement, but of the fight for many forms of social justice and equality.