On Jan. 21, Danny K. Davis, congressman of the 7th District of Illinois, convened with faculty and students at DePaul University for an evening of remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event focused on Dr. King’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement nearly 40 years later and how each of our lives has benefited from his passion for equality.
It took place in the Cortelyou Commons dining hall located at 2324 N. Freemont at DePaul’s North Side campus. The gala was sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA).
“When the fine people on the SGA committee asked me to be the keynote speaker of their Dr. King discussion, I was thrilled. However, I was curious when I’d receive my first applause,” said Davis. “If they clap at the end, it’s charity. If they clap in the middle, it’s hope?”that the next half will be better. If they clap at the beginning, though, it’s faith. They have faith that you as the speaker can enrich them in some way.”
Davis noted the way Dr. King was able to galvanize the nation so completely that he motivated people who would ordinarily be indifferent to civil rights to get involved in the movement.
“There were many other civil rights activists of the day who were also great orators and leaders,” said Davis. “However, only he knew how to bring the struggle into our living rooms. He was so successful that my friends and I used to recite the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by heart in college. He had a tremendous influence on all of us.”
Nevertheless, Davis also noted a major difference between the world today and the world a generation ago.
“This is the first generation I’ve seen that doesn’t believe their lives will be better than the generation that preceded them which is telling,” said Davis. “There was much more rampant overt segregation, but at least people in King’s era [people] believed that they will overcome, albeit ‘someday.’
“Now, though, there is so much going on in terms of the war, and Social Security and the difficulty in finding employment?”no one feels like their life will be better in the future. In fact, on the contrary, many students with master’s degrees don’t even feel confident they will find a job that will pay their bills.”
The primary organizer of the luncheon was Monique T. Norington, senator of the SGA, who solicited Davis’ keynote speech.
Norington had been planning the event since November and it showed as the meeting closely followed the distributed program, which included lunch, prayer by Father Kevin Collins, and a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the DePaul Gospel Choir.
“I felt it was important for people in my generation to get together and discuss Dr. King’s impact,” said Northington. “A lot of older people who remember the sit-ins and the boycotts have a much greater appreciation for his sacrifices to realize his dream than we do. We should never forget what he or our parents had to endure so that we can be educated at this university now.”
Dr. Darrell Moore, professor of Philosophy at DePaul, also noted the way Dr. King helped us gain a greater sense of mutual respect through his efforts, one that transcended economic and social class.
“He forced us to see our similarities even if we refused to,” said Moore. “Despite what differences we may share, be they racial, socio-economic or otherwise, he made us see our commonalities and ask what we can do for each other in this world, because giving our service selflessly to our countrymen is the greatest gift one can give.”