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University of Chicago Celebrates Diversity and Dr. King’s Legacy

By Tanya Fraser  |  january, 2014, Issue 2

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts

Spirits were high as the University of Chicago's 24th annual MLK celebration kicked off at Rockefeller Chapel. The school-wide event strives to honor Dr. King's legacy, promoting diversity and inclusion in partnership with the surrounding community.

University of Chicago President, Robert Zimmer delivered the opening remarks, noting that the first of Dr. King's three speeches at the University took place at the very pulpit where he then stood. Zimmer invoked Dr. King's exhortation to "keep moving" in defiance of complacency as he recognized the 2014 recipients of the Diversity Leadership Awards and their collective commitment toward social justice, equality and community.

Political strategist and Director of the University's Institute of Politics, David Axelrod introduced the evening's keynote speaker, Deval Patrick the Governor of Massachusetts. Axelrod recounted a story of Governor Patrick's humble childhood living in a tenement in Chicago's South side. Growing up, Patrick shared a bedroom and one bunk bed with his mother and sister, alternating turns sleeping on a makeshift mattress made of newspapers on the floor. Axelrod emphasized the important role education played in Patrick's success, having been awarded a scholarship to attend Milton Academy and then Harvard's College and Law School, "institutions said to rival our own," he added.

As Governor Patrick took the stage, the crowded chapel rose to their feet in applause. Having heard Dr. King speak once as a child, Patrick admitted he did not remember much of what was said, but did remember the "deep solemnity of the occasion" and a feeling of connection to the people in his community. Patrick underscored Dr. King's messages of love and servant leadership and joked, "how many times do you hear us talk about love in public discourse?" garnering chuckles from the audience. The Governor implored the assembly to consider their own commitment to service with a quote from Dr. King: "anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve." He closed with a nod to Project 351, an initiative dedicated to "encouraging...young people to be the servant leaders of tomorrow." Following his speech, Patrick took to the main aisle with his microphone for a lively Q&A session answering questions about his childhood, leadership and building a movement around service. As the commemoration came to an end, guests joined gospel group Soul Umoja and organist Thomas Weisflog in song as they performed, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

The celebration continued into the evening with a community reception in Ida Noyes' Cloister Club. Entertainment included spoken word, interpretive dance and performances from University student groups, including the Koong, a traditional Korean percussion troupe, and Apsara, dedicated to the sharing and appreciation of Indian classical dance. Though the festivities were nearing an end, the hall still bustled. Students, speakers and neighborhood residents alike gathered together sharing tables and conversation as they celebrated Dr. King's legacy and embodied his vision.

Last Updated 1/28/14
Last Updated 1/28/14