Office of Communications
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Harbach Theatre brimmed with a crowd eager to embrace a warm message of unity and reflection at the 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation. Kicking off the ceremony, Vice President for Student Development MarQuita Barker welcomed Convocation speaker Maurice McDavid ’10, principal of Turner Elementary School and assistant pastor at the United Pentecostal Church of DeKalb.
McDavid opened his speech by reflecting on U.S. federal holidays and explaining how Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only holiday that specifically focuses on an individual, emphasizing King's enduring influence on social justice. “I’m here today to talk about a man so impactful that while presidents share a day, he gets his own,” he said.
McDavid underscored King's commitment to his Christian faith—advocating for the radical love of friends and enemies alike. He detailed how King's philosophy of nonviolence, even in the face of global conflicts, resonates today.
“He felt an undying urge to overcome violence and oppression without resorting to violence and oppression,” McDavid said.
McDavid identified three key elements that fortified King's resolve: faith in something greater than himself, an educated and critical analysis of the world, and embracing his humanity. McDavid explained that these traits set King apart as a leader and as a visionary. He believes that King challenged the notion of perfect heroes. McDavid highlighted the imperfections of historical figures and their human qualities that are often ignored, including King. By acknowledging their flaws, McDavid encouraged a more realistic understanding of these individuals, emphasizing that they were human and imperfect, just like all of us.
In closing, McDavid shared the stories of four Knox graduates who drew inspiration from King's legacy, including Ladipo Lawani ’08, DeAndre Henderson ’10, Jim Davis ’06, and his wife Samantha McDavid ’10. He highlighted the contributions these individuals made in their various fields, embodying the spirit of civic engagement and commitment to positive social change.
The event concluded with closing remarks from Provost and Dean of the College Mike Schneider. He thanked the crowd for attending, including students from the Galesburg School District’s George Washington Gale Scholars Program. Schneider reflected on the current conflicts still present in today’s world while encouraging attendees to actively engage with current issues, echoing the theme of direct engagement as the solution to societal challenges.
Listen to the KnoxCast episode featuring McDavid by clicking here, featuring a conversation about life as a Prairie Fire football player, a pastor, and an educator.
Published on January 15, 2024
-Mitch Prentice, Office of Communications Lead Writer/Editor