Within Calumet College of Saint Joseph’s mission statement, it states “the College promotes the inherent dignity of all people, social justice, and ethic of service, student empowerment, opportunity, and lifelong learning.” This statement connects strongly with Dr. King’s own mission of providing equality, justice, opportunity, and maintaining the dignity of all persons, no matter the color of their skin. It would make sense, then, that CCSJ should have a presence at the annual MLK Day Celebration at Valparaiso University.
Each year, the University hosts numerous events leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, such as art exhibits, film screenings, plays, prayer services, as well as community conversations held at various locations around the institute’s campus and the city of Valparaiso. On MLK day, VU also hosts an annual luncheon, with this year’s event featuring Ishmael Beah, author of “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” and CCSJ’s very own Professor Richard Morrisroe as guest speakers.
As a contributor to the event and co-sponsor of Mr. Ishmael Beah, Calumet College was present throughout the festivities by way of faculty and staff members, as well as the student group Men of Promise, a group that looks to support the male students of CCSJ by providing them with resources that impact their lives outside of their academic careers.
The event revolved around the powerful words of guest speaker Ishmael Beah, who was a child soldier in Sierra Leon before being saved and brought to America. He spoke about the hope that is still present, and the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left on not only America, but also the world. He said that Dr. King had the “ability to think differently, even if it was not popular,” and that we all should heed his words and act on the hope that is still present in many people. Beah said,
“People won’t remember the wrong that has been done to them, but they will remember the silence of the loved ones around them.”
It is our duty, Ismael said, to speak up for what is right and to also remember “there is hope.”
Clarence Montgomery, who works closely with the Men of Promise and was in attendance, said that his reaction to Ishmael Beah’s words was shocking and re-invigorating. “It’s almost unbelievable to me that someone that has had such a crazy life could come to America and be taken aback by how badly we blatantly treat one another in a country that has given him a second chance at life,” Montgomery said. He also talked about how the other students and faculty members were truly affected and impacted by the entire event.
The opportunity to hear other perspectives on such an important topic really opened the proverbial eyes of all in attendance. Montgomery stated that “Everyone brings their own unique opinions to the conversation, and through good dialogue, we start to find solutions to make things better.” Events such as this luncheon create an ideal environment for these conversations to take place. Awareness was raised within the audience, and a new sense of responsibility and commitment to the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born.
Events such as this are a wonderful opportunity for students to gain knowledge and engage in conversations that seek to improve life for all people. “Knowledge is power, and any time you can immerse yourself in a situation where you can gain knowledge or even impart knowledge from or onto another person, it’s a benefit,” Montgomery said, when asked about students who did not get the opportunity to attend. “In carrying on the legacy and changes made by Dr. King, Calumet College as an institution needs to continue to strive for equality, co-existing with all of the wonderful differences we have. If we can learn to accept one another’s differences, and begin to truly appreciate what makes each of us unique, we will be doing the work of Dr. King, and we can begin to prosper together.”
In the words of Ishmael Beah, “Hope is there. It is strong. Hope is possible.”
Hope, even within the walls of CCSJ, is here and real, and should be acted upon by each and every person.
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