When the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke on campus at Ohio Northern University in January, 1968, his words were revelatory.
For Bob Parsons, one member of the mostly white audience in rural Ada, the speech about striving for progress and racial justice was “eye-opening.”
For many students like Mr. Parsons, the quiet and mostly white world of Ada had seemed far removed from the struggles for racial equality and civil rights, even in 1968.
Reverend King’s campus speech, arranged by the progressive ONU chaplain and seminary classmate of Reverend King, the Rev. James Udy, made the struggle for racial equality real.
For Sadicka White, one of just 27 nonwhite students on the campus of about 2,000, the speech was a call to step up, and work to make a difference. She went on to found Ohio Northern’s Black Student Union and pressed the university to hire more black faculty and staff.
Ohio Northern plans to mark the 50th anniversary of Reverend King’s inspiring campus appearance with a special event this week. It will be one of thousands and thousands of such events around the United States to memorialize King and his contributions to our country.
“I haven’t lost faith in the future,” Reverend King said at ONU, just months before his death in Memphis. “I still feel that we can develop a kind of coalition of conscience, and with this coalition move on into a brighter tomorrow. With this faith we will be able to do it.”
We live in the brighter future Reverend King imagined, though the work he challenged students to take up 50 years ago remains unfinished.
His words retain their power all these years later. The holiday that celebrates his birth should always be a call for the country to renew its commitment to achieve a coalition of conscience.
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