stories | Students

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

January 17, 2014 | DAVID LEEDY

Years ago, I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The images of the costly struggle for basic rights for African Americans pierced me. As I stood in the spot where Martin Luther King was assassinated, my esteem for his sacrifice on behalf of his fellow citizens swelled.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorates the birthday (January 15, 1929) of the man who championed human rights for all men and women, regardless of color, class, or creed. Our nation is more just and free because of MLK’s self-sacrificing leadership.

It is fitting, therefore, that The King’s College—an institution that seeks to transform society—observes the holiday that celebrates MLK’s legacy. Since our re-founding in 1999, we have cancelled classes on this day for this purpose. To aid you in observing MLK Day, I commend two things to you:

First, seek out opportunities to serve. Monday is also the MLK Day of Service, which is designed to challenge Americans to serve their communities and neighbors. There are numerous opportunities here in NYC. I’ve listed a few for your consideration. You can explore others here:

Teach kids to make healthy snacks that will be donated to soup kitchens – Mon. 11:30AM-12:30PM, Upper East Side
Facilitate group games for kids – Mon. 12:30-1:30PM, Upper East Side
Volunteer at a clothing drive – Mon. 9:00AM-4:00PM, Upper East Side

Second, read the following reflection, HONORING MARTIN LUTHER KING, by Professor David Tubbs:

“Whether they identify themselves as conservative or liberal or independent, most Americans now appreciate the pivotal leadership of Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement. It was not always so. King had many critics both within and outside the movement, including black radicals and ardent segregationists. Even some opponents of segregation considered King unreasonable for refusing to accept a “gradualist” approach to Civil Rights.

“Today, no one can deny King’s political acumen and sound judgment. But it would be wrong to praise him only for his political skill. Let us not forget that his leadership rested on the great truths of the Christian faith. And in providing such leadership during a prolonged national crisis, King prevented those great truths from being permanently distorted.

“The distortion was evident when defenders of segregation, citing the “Curse of Canaan” in Genesis 9:18-27, claimed that God wanted persons of African descent to be relegated to a separate and subordinate position in society. King challenged that false and harmful idea. There was no biblical warrant for segregation, he maintained, because the Christian message is about the love that should take root among all of God’s children.

“In preaching that message, King transformed the public understanding of Christianity, even in states strongly committed to segregation. For this achievement and others, we at The King’s College honor the man on Monday, January 20th. The holiday presents an opportunity for everyone in our community to reflect on the life and inspired leadership of an extraordinary American.”

Have a great weekend.

David K. Leedy
Dean of Students