Tuesday January 3, 2006

A Homecoming

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page returns home to Dayton to headline two Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. events Jan. 16-17.

Hurricane Katrina sparked "America's biggest racial eruption since the O.J. Simpson trial," contends Clarence Page, nationally syndicated Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and television commentator.

"Poverty came back into the headlines after Hurricane Katrina in a major way. So did the racial divide. See how much it's faded from our memory. This may be the fastest War on Poverty on record," said Page in a telephone interview from the Chicago Tribune's Washington, D.C., bureau.

Page, who was born at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and grew up in Middletown, returns home Jan. 16-17 to headline two community events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. He will address "The March to the New Century" at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Holiday Celebration and Presidential Banquet at the Mandalay Banquet Center, 2700 E. River Rd., in collaboration with the Dayton Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the University of Dayton's Diversity Lecture Series. Tickets are $50. Call (937) 268-0051 for more information. He will speak on "Keeping the Dream Alive" at 7:30 a.m.,Tuesday, Jan. 17, at UD's annual Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast in the Kennedy Union Ballroom on campus. Tickets are $8 for students, and $10 for faculty, staff and the general public. Tickets are limited. Call (937) 229-2545.

"Martin Luther King opened up opportunities for my generation and beyond and set a model for the world. From Poland to China's Tiananmen Square, you see freedom demonstrators singing, 'We Shall Overcome,"' Page observed. "He changed the way we look at freedom and justice."

What matters would occupy King today if the civil rights leader were alive? "Poverty, immigration and issues of freedom and liberty around the world," Page rattled off. "Anybody who wonders if Martin Luther King is relevant today need only look at how in the age of terrorism the issues of liberty and racial profiling are back in the headlines."

A 1965 graduate of Middletown High School, Page began his journalism career as a freelance writer and photographer for the Middletown Journal and Cincinnati Enquirer at the age of 17. While a journalism major at Ohio University, he interned at the now-defunct Journal Herald, Dayton's morning paper. Today, his column appears regularly in the Dayton Daily News and close to 200 other papers around the nation. He often tackles issues of race and African American identity in thought-provoking commentaries that take the long view. His book, Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity, offers personal commentaries on his life and contemporary race relations.

"Dayton nurtured me and rehearsed me as the old song goes," Page said. "As an intern at the late, great Journal Herald, I covered city hall and got to know the mayor and other top dogs. I still have lots of friends and relatives in the region. I fondly remember certain things like Lakeside Park -- which let black folks in when LeSourdsville wouldn't -- and the Air Force Museum."

In 1989, Page won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He also participated in a 1972 Chicago Tribune Task Force series on vote fraud that won the Pulitzer Prize.

He is a frequent guest panelist on "The McLaughlin Group" and "Meet The Press" with Tim Russert. He's also appeared on ABC's "This Week" and been a regular contributor of essays to the "Lehrer News Hour" and a host of documentaries on the Public Broadcasting System. He is a regular panelist on Black Entertainment Television's (BET) weekly "Lead Story" news panel program and a biweekly commentator for National Public Radio's (NPR) "Weekend Sunday."

As a freelance writer, Page has published articles in Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Reader, Washington Monthly, New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Emerge. He was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 1992.

The University of Dayton's Diversity Lecture Series -- part of a larger strategic plan to foster inclusion and diversity on campus and prepare students, faculty, staff and the Dayton community for success in a global society -- is co-sponsored by the offices of the president and provost with support from corporate partners, including the Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV, WDAO-1210 AM and Markey's Audio Visual.

Contact Teri Rizvi at (937) 229-3241 to request an advance telephone interview with Clarence Page. He also will be available to meet with the media at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, at the Mandalay Banquet Center.