Winter Convocation Celebrates the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

L. Douglas Wilder with Marcus Burke ‘10

In remembrance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., students, faculty and staff gathered in Weber Chapel Auditorium on Jan. 19 for Susquehanna’s annual Winter Convocation, marking what President L. Jay Lemons referred to in his opening remarks as “a day on, rather than a day off.”

“It’s important to pause, to come together in community to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Lemons said.

The day carried extra significance as many of the featured speakers acknowledged the historic event that would occur the following day, the inauguration of our country’s first black president.

At the same time, Lemons acknowledged that although we have made strides in overcoming racial and ethnic divisions, both nationally and at Susquehanna, “We’re not as diverse and inclusive as we should and want to be.”

Chaplain Mark Wm. Radecke also spoke, quoting some of King’s lesser-known speeches. King encouraged people to “see the world as it could be,” rather than how it is, Radecke said.

The keynote address was given by L. Douglas Wilder, former governor of Virginia and the first African-American in U.S. history to be elected governor of a state. Recognizing the economic turmoil that our country faces, Wilder said, “We haven’t seen tougher times in a long time.”

Wilder is no stranger to economic hardship, however. During his first year as governor, he faced budget cuts with a projected tax shortfall of $1.4 billion. To combat the situation, Wilder implemented a successful program that reduced spending.

“Things don’t just happen automatically,” he said. “People have to make them happen. You have to make them happen.”

“Look how far we’ve come,” Wilder said, acknowledging the gains in racial equality that have been made while also stressing the need for more change in order to “heal the divisions within our country.”

“We can and we must do better,” Wilder said.

Two students, creative writing major Marcus Burke ’10 and political science major Berkeley Chapman ’11, shared essays they’d written. In his essay, Burke reflected on a trip he’d taken as a high school student to South Africa, where he visited the prison in which Nelson Mandela was held during the period of apartheid.

Chapman’s essay was presented via prerecorded video because she was in Washington, D.C., awaiting the inauguration of President Barack Obama (see related story, pp. 16). Focusing on her search to connect with her mixed-heritage roots, Chapman said it’s important to “love and represent all parts of myself, without reservation or condition.”

The program also included performances by the University Symphonic Band, conducted by Eric Hinton, assistant professor of music and director of bands; and the University Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Assistant Professor of Music Joshua Davis; as well as a moving performance of “This Little Light of Mine” by the University Chorale, led by Judith White, lecturer in music.


Contributing writers to the People & Places section are Sondra Zanetto '09 and Julie Buckingham '09. 

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