Story by Tierra Reese, Staff writer
The message Martin Luther King III delivered Monday at Lovett Auditorium was one of caring for others and devoting oneself to bettering humanity, whether it was protecting education funding or eradicating racism and poverty.
King, the 12th speaker in Murray State’s Presidential Lecture series, also challenged the audience to improve society, which he said still has work to do to achieve its potential. Ignoring poverty, particularly, should not be tolerated in the 21st century, he said.
“It is unacceptable and un-American,” he said.
King, the eldest son of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, has continued in his father’s practice by helping communities across the nation by spearheading programs such as the King Summer Intern Program, Hoops for Health and A Call to Manhood.
A CALL FOR ACTION
King also weighed in on one of the biggest challenges facing Murray State’s campus.
State funding to the university could be cut by 4.5 percent this spring and another 9 percent next year if Kentucky legislators adopt the budget Gov. Matt Bevin proposed last month. King said he was saddened to hear that leaders would slash education funds.
“They are hurting our state and young people to be competitive with the world,” King said.
When one student asked him if he would send a letter to the governor urge him to back off the cuts, King said he would but advised students to “mobilize through social media.”
“Students have to be engaged like they were in the ‘60s,” King said.
He said Murray State’s nearly 11,000 students should make a trip to the governor’s office to voice their frustration, and added that he bet Bevin would “think twice about any funding being cut.”
President Bob Davies, who walked out stage to give the thumbs up to the student who asked King the question, said later he was excited about King’s willingness to sign a letter asking state leaders to spare higher education from cuts.
King also spoke about Murray State’s 60th anniversary of desegregation, which is being celebrated this academic year, and applauded the university for the progress made over those six decades. But King said the country still has to wrestle with it, as evidenced by protests over the last two years in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.
“We became more divided and racial issues seem to grow,” King said.
Murray State has experienced instances of racism during that period, including when several people anonymously posted racist remarks aimed at black students on the social media site Yik Yak in fall 2014.
“I am bothered by the rhetoric and reality of what people believe,” King said.
King said people can look at one scenario and make a universal indictment. He also described his own experience as a child in Birmingham, Alabama, when people would aim racist remarks at him and his family.
“They would say vicious things over the phone to whoever answered,” King said.
King also doesn’t like the word “minority” when used to describe ethnic or racial groups because the word means “less than” and people will “subconsciously treat you less and we should have a different way to characterize.”
“We need to become a better nation that what we are exhibiting,” King said.
‘VICTORY FOR HUMANITY’
King encouraged young people in the audience to do and create something to be proud of and bring about change.
As he concluded his speech, King recalled visiting his mother’s alma mater, Antioch College in Ohio, and seeing the statue of education reformer Horace Mann. The inscription on the statue included Mann’s quote: “Be ashamed to die until you’ve won a victory for humanity.”
King said it should be a challenge to everyone to affect change at any level – the university, the community, the nation or even the world.
“It takes a few good men and women to bring upon change,” he said.