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On the Dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bust
Feburary 28, 2007
President Jo Young Switzer
Welcome to this important dedication. Today we celebrate once again Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to our campus in 1968. Just as his voice inspired the world and changed it, his visit to Manchester College inspired us and changed us.
Today, we celebrate the display of the beautiful bronze sculpture of King, created by Will Clark. And more importantly, we celebrate Dr. King’s profound impact on our nation.
Dr. King spoke at our weekly convocation in February 1968 in the Old Gymnasium, a building that stood on this very spot. He stood behind this very podium and spoke into this microphone. His coming to campus was intense and controversial, but President A. Blair Helman stood firm in his commitment to invite and welcome this extraordinary man. Scattered community resistance created fears, and rumors of violence swirled like the cold winter winds on that blustery day. Security was tight, and tensions were high. At that time in history, some believed that King was a Communist sympathizer and a violent trouble-maker.
But with courageous leadership from President Helman and strong support from faculty leaders like Ken Brown and T. Wayne Rieman, we experienced one of the most profound convocation presentations in the history of the College. Today, as we honor Dr. King, we also express our gratitude to President Helman for his ethical leadership at a time of racial strike. Please join me in recognizing President Helman.
When Dr. King began to speak, his rhythmic delivery embodied the deep spirit of unity about which he spoke. As a sophomore in the audience that day, I was struck by King’s observations about laws and ethics. He said, “It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” His contrast between the laws needed to keep people safe and the moral strength needed to bring about integration was clear.
He let us know that he never intended to adjust himself to segregation, discrimination, religious bigotry, and economic injustice. Instead, he reminded us that we can “hew out of mountains of despair a stone of hope ... we can transform the dangling discord of our cities into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (and sisterhood).” Now as then, we need to make sure that we never adjust ourselves to injustice.
Dr. King inspired us to build bridges of respect, justice, and courage.
One of the bridge-builders who has carried on King’s legacy is Will Clark of Fort Wayne, the sculptor who created this striking piece. Will Clark spent his career in the corporate world of Central Soya as a high-level executive. He is a servant leader who spends much time in community service directed to bringing about justice for those who have incomplete access to education, the arts, and social and legal services. His life not only demonstrates a commitment to justice, but also a commitment to lifelong learning. He began to sculpt after he retired.
The bust that Will Clark molded is displayed on a hand-crafted pedestal built by Paul Kioebge of Huntington, who built it especially for this sculpture and this place. Mr. Kioebge is also a lifelong learner, and we thank him.
We have invited Will Clark to reflect on his sculpture with us. We also want to express our thanks to him for enriching our campus. Please join me in welcoming Will Clark.
(Will Clark speaks.)
We thank Will Clark, whose creative vision gives us this tangible memory of Dr. King.
Today, we have gathered to honor the man who helped our nation move, albeit imperfectly, toward the beloved community. We honor a man whose spirit lifted us and who reminded us often that the world “bends toward justice.” At this moment, together in this place, we dedicate this sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. to commemorate his 1968 speech on this very ground, and we invite God’s blessings to bathe this memorial, this campus, this community, and this world with justice.
We will end today with a prayer from Jordan Tyson, a first-year student majoring in sociology. When Jordan’s prayer is finished, our gathering is adjourned. Thank you for sharing these moments.
Now, Jordan will close our gathering.