Knox Faculty and Students Commemorate King's Legacy

January 28, 2014

By Laura Pochodylo ‘14

Knox College's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation focused on commemorating King's achievements as well as exploring ways to apply them to the current and future challenges our country faces.

President Teresa Amott recalled the recent 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington led by King.

"The idea was freedom," she said. "While we celebrate that movement's achievement, we must be mindful that the dream has not been fully realized."

Amott tied King's vision of freedom and equality to the College's values, and she spoke about how those values were reflected in the life of one particular Knox alumna, Lexie Kamerman '08.

Kamerman was killed in a January 17 attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was in Afghanistan training female resident assistants at the American University of Afghanistan, "to help educate women to be Afghan leaders of the future," Amott explained.

"Lexie embodied the highest values of this College. And on this day, let us hold her in our hearts as we commemorate Dr. King and all those who have been inspired by the dream of justice for all," Amott said.Cristian Gorostieta '15

Laura Behling, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, also shared Amott's forward-looking view.

Behling explained that, like many Knox faculty and students, she doesn't remember King's life. She does, however, know the impact of his work, and she encouraged the audience not to leave his legacy in the past.

"Those of us born too late for King's civil rights movement have been born at the right time for our own," Behling said. [Photo at right: Cristian Gorostieta '15 gives a poetic tribute at the King Day Convocation.]

Echoing the sentiments of both Amott and Behling, Konrad Hamilton opened his keynote address by establishing the convocation as "more than just a remembrance of great deeds of the past."

Hamilton, associate professor of history, is the chair of the history department as well as the American Studies program at Knox. He has worked on the King Papers Project at Stanford University and taught classes on King's biography and the American Civil Rights Movement.

"Many college campuses, like this one, have cultural and racial diversity that would have stunned and delighted Dr. King," Hamilton said. However, given racial divides and wealth gaps still present in this country, Hamilton reminded the audience there is still work to be done.

"Reverend King's beloved community has yet to arrive," he said.

"What would surprise King the most is how little most of us expect of our government," Hamilton said in his address titled "Citizen and Government in King's America."

Hamilton recalled a few current events, like the recent government shutdown, to illustrate areas where King's legacy of activism could be helpful. He ended his speech on a call to action.

"We may never see a Martin Luther King Jr. in our lifetime again, but we can see King's America again," Hamilton said.

Cristian Gorostieta, a junior creative writing major, gave the first poetic tribute. He read two original pieces and selections from Amiri Baraka and Evie Shockley.

Morgan Blakely, a senior English literature major who spent her summer working in Malaysia with children writing poems, read an original piece and Robert Hayden's "Frederick Douglass" as the second poetic tribute.

Magali Roy-Fequiere, associate professor and chair of gender and women's studies, organized the Convocation. She read a final original poem to close the event before the choir led a sing-a-long of "We Shall Overcome."

Lizzy Rodgers, a senior English literature major, attended Convocation.

"I liked that it was about remembrance of Martin Luther King as much as it was making it relevant to today and tying in current events," Rodgers said.

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