WILKES-BARRE — Speakers, including the Rev. Shawn Walker, gave remarks that made the audience of 250 at King’s College’s Martin Luther King Day ceremony pause to reflect and feel inspired.
The program, titled “Standing on Purpose,” honored, as Walker said Monday, “A man who did so much, not just for black people, but for this country and the world.”
And, Walker noted, King accomplished so much in a short period. He was killed by an assassin on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., at the age of 39.
King had the courage to take a stand on purpose and he endured pain, anguish, death threats, incarceration, sleepless nights, and anxiety to fight for his beliefs, Walker said.
“As a basketball coach once told me, ‘You have great potential, but that means nothing unless you reach it.’ Society needs all of you, especially you students, to reach your potential,” Walker said.
Jenna Wilson, a 19-year-old King’s sophomore, knows about potential and struggle. Wilson told the audience her mother is Caucasian and her father African American. She said growing up wasn’t always easy for a bi-racial girl from West Philadelphia.
“Today and every day we all should stand up against the slurs and the hate,” she said. “I am not defined by my skin color. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different stories. Let’s all stand together in the dream of equality.”
Walker urged everyone to “stand on purpose” and to have compassion.
“Compassion is why you do something when it has nothing to do with you,” Walker said. “We all deal with the pain and anguish of difficult decisions when we are deciding if we should subject ourselves to the struggle.”
He said it was King who said, “There comes a time when your silence becomes betrayal.” He said that too often people make decisions that are best for themselves and not for their community.
The Rev. Dan Issing of the King’s College’s theology faculty said social injustice is an attitude born of the human spirit.
“My dream is to live in a society where the lion can lay down with the lamb,” he said.
The event featured a welcome by King’s president the Rev. Jack Ryan, student Sarah Beth Kolodziej and dance celebrations performed by Mt. Zion Baptist Choir Dance Ministry and the House of Judah Praise Team.
Citizens from three local senior centers attended and later dined with King’s students.
“Every speaker was great,” said Mike Mundy of Plymouth. “The message of using your potential was really important. It’s true, we all have potential; it’s getting to that potential and using it that’s important.”
Diane Hoover of the Plymouth senior center said people should get involved and take a stand. “Too many people stay quiet and don’t give of themselves. I like helping people,” she said.
Ide Thompson, 20, a junior biology major at King’s from Nassau, Bahamas, said he found Walker and the discussion on potential to be enlightening.
“Success just doesn’t happen with talent,” he said. “It’s what you do with your potential.”
The Hoyt Library took a different approach in remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by asking patrons to bring non-perishable food items to the facility to be donated to a food kitchen that helps the poor.
“MLK” marked boxes were located at library entrances, and of posters and markers were available for children to design a poster depicting their personal view of what community service is about.