Martin Luther King Memorial

Unfinished Business

By Eric F. Spina

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, I’m struck by two undeniable facts.

 We are a nation in which far too many of us are still facing injustice.

This is a time of reflection and action, not celebration.

We live in complex times when the bonds of our common humanity have become alarmingly frayed. Certainly, it’s easy to read the headlines of the day and become disheartened, but that’s not what the greatest civil rights leader of all times would want us to do.

As I read through the Rev. Dr. King’s final speech, one section popped out. He said, “I’m happy to live in this period. …We have been forced to a point where we are going to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with throughout history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it.”

Sadly 50 years later, we are still challenged by the demands of Dr. King’s day. What will be the demands of our own day that will force us, finally, to deal with and dispense with such evident injustice?

I do not have the answer in full, but I do know that together we need the hope and the faith matched to the strength and the perseverance of us all to continue the daily work of stamping out intolerance and racism.

Step by step, we need to take on this task in our own small way, showing by example how to lift up and celebrate the dignity and contributions of all of God’s children.

I invite the campus community to gather for a series of commemorative events that have been thoughtfully organized by more than a dozen offices on campus. All are free. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, April 3: 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s Last Speech

7 p.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom, screening of Dr. King’s last speech and a panel discussion exploring its themes and various rhetorical, religious, and political strategies. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Julius Amin, professor of history and Alumni Chair in the Humanities, and will feature Dr. Una Cadegan, professor of history; Dr. Herbert Martin, professor emeritus of English; and Dr. Larry Burnley, vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Wednesday, April 4: 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. King

Noon, Martin Luther King Memorial, prayer gathering sponsored by Campus Ministry.

12:30 p.m., Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, monthly memorial Mass at which Dr. King will be remembered.

7:05 p.m., solemn tolling of bells, 39 times for the 39 years of Dr. King’s life.

6 and 8 p.m., Schuster Center, Celebration of the Arts, featuring various artistic works and performances in observance of the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. The Schuster Center opens for Celebration of the Arts at 6 p.m. for the viewing of artistic works in the Wintergarden, followed by performances at 8 p.m. in the Mead Theatre.

Thursday, April 12: Lecture by Terri Lee Freeman ’81, president of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel

7 p.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom, “The Incredible Relevance of Dr. King’s Message Today.”

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, I invite us to reflect on his legacy and recommit ourselves to finishing the unfinished work. I challenge us to work across differences to realize the dream of equality and justice for all. 

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