About Manchester
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Manchester, 1968

This is Who We Are

Opening Convocation Speech – 2017
President Dave McFadden
Aug. 29, 2017

Welcome to the start of a new academic year. I’m glad you’re here today and grateful that you’ve chosen to be part of our community this year.

Hurricane Harvey
I want to start by acknowledging the devastation being caused by Hurricane Harvey. Coastal Texas has been hit very hard, especially the Houston area where massive flooding is taking place. We have alumni all across Texas, including Houston. 
How many of you know someone living in the area hit by the storm? Eight of our incoming students this year are also from the Houston area. One of the eight is stranded at home by the flooding and not here yet, but seven are. Jeremy, Brian, Jack, Jonathan, Mario, Justin and Salvador – I want you to know that you and your families are in our thoughts and prayers today.

We live in challenging times
We live in challenging times, don’t we? The world seems divided according to religion, politics, race and economic resources. We are either for or against, us or them. We don’t trust the government, the media, the police, the right or the left. Anyone who isn’t from where we are from or who doesn’t look like us or our friends is suspect. You just have to turn on your television or read the news on your phone to find evidence that we live in a divided country, a divided world. 

We live in challenging times. Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators hurl insults and rocks at each other while police wade in dressed in riot gear to keep order. African Americans in many communities fear for their safety when they’re pulled over for routine traffic stops and Hispanic Americans fear deportation if they draw undue attention to themselves. We are deeply entangled in seemingly endless wars overseas that come at an enormous cost in lives and resources. 

MLK 50 ManchesterMuch like 50 years ago
We live in challenging times. If you know your history, you’ll know that the turmoil we see today is not much different than the United States of the 1960s. Fifty years ago, we were embroiled in the Vietnam War and our cities were clogged with anti-war protests. In the south and in the north, thousands of blacks and sympathetic whites were demonstrating, and some losing their lives, in the fight for civil rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led that effort, was broadening his calls for justice to include an end to poverty and an end to the Vietnam War. 

King’s visit
It was in the middle of those chaotic times, 50 years ago this coming February, that Dr. King visited Manchester. Ours was the last campus on which he spoke before being assassinated in Memphis two short months later on April 4, 1968.
King spoke just across this corner of the mall, in what was then the gymnasium and auditorium. It’s where the Science Center stands today. If you go onto the second floor, at the top of the stairs, you’ll see a bust of King that commemorates his visit. It’s close to where he stood when he spoke. And when he spoke, he stood behind this very podium. 

King’s visit wasn’t welcomed by everyone. Then President A. Blair Helman, who had invited King to speak, received hate mail from alumni and area residents. One note read, “We over this way feel outraged that your school would allow the unpatriotic and communistic Dr. Martin Luther King to speak at an Indiana college, which we believed to be an excellent institution.” 
Another writer objected to King’s “views of racial equality and his un-American attitude toward our beloved country.” Yet another note from a couple that described themselves as “born-again Christians” said they objected to Manchester “providing a soapbox for this publicity-seeking hypocrite.”
Helman himself received death threats for having invited King.

On the day that King came to campus, President Helman picked him up personally at the Fort Wayne airport. On the trip back, police and the FBI had cars blocking every intersection of the 40-mile route. Students waited in the pouring rain to pass a security check to enter the gymnasium. Police officers were stationed at every door and window and plainclothes officers were spread through the crowd. Busloads of National Guardsmen were reported to be a few minutes away, ready to respond if needed.
The visit itself ended up being relatively uneventful. There were protests, but no violence. There was no need for the National Guard and one participant remembered that the audience that heard King was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. 

Two weeks after Dr. King spoke, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, came to campus. He was also invited by President Helman. Goldwater had run for president in 1964 as the Republican nominee and stood against almost everything that King stood for. Goldwater was considered extremely conservative, even by Republicans. Not surprisingly, in the same way that Helman received hate mail about the King visit, he got hate mail about inviting Goldwater.

This is who we are
So here’s the question: Why would Manchester College, standing in the cornfields of conservative Indiana, invite the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak? Why invite controversy and division to campus? And then, why invite the opposition just two weeks later? Why let both sides be heard?
President Helman provided the answer: “Manchester is about living out our values,” Helman said during that difficult period. “That is who we are.”
There you have it.
“Manchester is about living out our values. That is who we are.”
And it is still who we are, 50 years later.

This year we are observing the 50th anniversary of King’s visit to campus, but we’re not just remembering it or celebrating it. 
We are continuing to live out our core values, the same values that led us to invite King and Goldwater in 1968. 
You’ve heard the old sayings that you should walk the talk and that you should practice what you preach. Well at Manchester, we practice what we teach. 
I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again and again. We are a place where you can be yourself and where you will be challenged to become your best self. 
This is who we are.

Our mission statement affirms that we respect the infinite worth of every person. That means you, all of you, and each of you. I firmly believe that we are distinctive among colleges and universities around us because we welcome you, we value you, for who you are. 
You don’t have to fit into any particular mold to belong here. And because we can each be who we are, we can learn from each other … learn about ourselves and learn about and from our differences. 

We’re in the middle of raising funds for a new Intercultural Center, hoping to break ground this year. It will sit on the corner of East and College, just across from Oakwood and East Halls. The Center will provide our multicultural students with a home away from home and a place for all of us to gather and talk together about who we are – individually and collectively.
We will be naming the Center after one of our graduates, Jean Childs. After graduating in 1954, Jean became an elementary school teacher, a strong advocate for literacy programs, and a champion for children’s rights. She was active in the civil rights movement and a civic leader in Atlanta. 
Jean was a member of our Board of Trustees, returning to campus many times before dying of cancer in 1994.
There is an interesting connection between Jean Childs and Dr. King and with King’s visit to Manchester that I want to tell you about.

Jean Childs’ story
Right after she graduated from Manchester, Jean married Andrew Young. Reverend Young would go on to become a U.S. Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. 
Young is best known, perhaps, for being a close colleague of Martin Luther King’s. He was with King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on the day that King was assassinated. In the pictures of that tragedy, Young can be seen on the motel room balcony pointing toward a nearby rooftop where the shots were fired. 
And Young was with King when he came to Manchester. 
I had an opportunity to meet with Ambassador Young to ask his permission to name the Center after Jean. He was delighted by the idea and agreed to help us with fundraising. He told me during our visit that his work would not have been possible without Jean, and by extension, without Manchester. 
Jean Childs to Andrew Young to Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a pretty cool connection. 
But there’s more to the story. 

Frances Smith Thomas graduated from Manchester in 1939. She was born in Ohio and grew up near here in Columbia City. Her mentor at Manchester, Andrew Cordier, after whom this building is named, encouraged her, she said, to make a difference in a person’s life. Isn’t that a great goal? Make a difference in a person’s life.
So, Frances was passionate about music and after graduating, and remembering Cordier’s encouragement, she took a position at a small African-American school in Marian, Alabama. 

Among her students at Lincoln High School were Cora and Norma Childs, Jean Childs’ older sisters. That’s how Jean and her sisters ended up here. With encouragement from Frances, all three came to Manchester. Also in her classes was Coretta Scott, who would go on to marry Martin Luther King Jr. Frances Thomas taught Coretta to play the clarinet and trumpet, composed music for her that Coretta played throughout her life, and collected clothing for her when Coretta went off to college. Included in the clothing she collected was the outfit that Coretta wore on her first date with Dr. King.
Frances Smith Thomas, Cora, Norma and Jean Childs, Coretta Scott, Andrew Young, Martin Luther King Jr. and Manchester. It is, I admit, hard to believe.

There are more stories like this about our graduates that you’ll hear this year, stories that are equally hard to believe – about people like Irma Gall, Ted Studebaker, Steve and Jane Stone and others – that help define who we are. 
Over many decades, our graduates have touched the world in significant ways. Echoing Professor Cordier’s encouragement to Frances Thomas, they have made a difference in the lives of others.
In our challenging times, the world needs Manchester graduates. In fact, the world is hungry for Manchester graduates.

The world wants Manchester graduates
Let me get practical here for a minute. Yes, what you learn here, how you learn here, will shape who you become. But it isn’t just about appreciating and learning from our differences. It’s also about getting a good job, about being sought after by top employers and graduate schools. 
The fact that 98% of our graduates are employed, in graduate school or doing full time volunteer work within six months of graduating is not an accident. 
Major companies in Northeast Indiana, including a Fortune 500 steel manufacturer, the largest health system in the region and a major financial institution, have hired us to teach their employees the things that you are learning every day, including how to be effective in a diverse workplace. 
Employers and graduate schools value what we teach and how we teach. They are looking for you when you graduate.
The world needs Manchester graduates. The world is hungry for Manchester graduates.

Wrap Up
In his speech 50 years ago, Dr. King began by affirming that the country had come a long way in extending civil rights. He offered a broad sweep of history, talking about the first Africans brought here as slaves in 1619, today almost 400 years ago. The Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v Ferguson ruling that established “separate but equal” segregation in the South. The Court’s rejection of legislated segregation in 1954 in its Brown vs Board of Education ruling. And the first accomplishments of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s.

King said, and I’m quoting here, 
“And so looking at these particular things, we can say that progress has been made. And particularly when we look at the South, we see that its architecture has changed, and so we've come a long, long way since 1896. 
“Now this would be a wonderful place for me to end my talk this morning,” King went on. … “But I'm afraid if I stop here, I will merely be stating a fact and not telling the truth.  … Now it's a fact that we've come a long, long way, but it's not the whole truth. …”
“So in order to tell the truth, it is necessary to move on and not only say we've come a long, long way; but we must honestly face the fact, all over America, that we still have a long, long way to go before the problem of racial injustice is solved. 
“We don't have to look very far to see this,” King said, “we only need open our newspapers and turn on our televisions and look around our communities and there are things almost on a daily, hourly, minute basis to remind us that the problem of racial injustice is still the black man's burden and the white man's shame.”

What King said was sobering: “We’ve come a long, long way; but we must honestly face the fact, all over America, that we still have a long, long way to go.” 
What was true 50 years ago, tragically, is still true today. 
But there is reason for optimism. King saw it that day and I’m looking at it right now.

King ended with this:
“I get very discouraged sometimes about this struggle, a struggle not only for justice, but the struggle for peace. I get discouraged about America a great deal. And what I see as its mixed-up values. But let me say to you the one thing that gives me new hope, as I journey around the country, is that over and over again, I get the opportunity to talk as I am this morning with students, and I see a new quality within this student generation. As I move around more and more, I do see thousands of students who are through with racism. … They've come to see that America must undergo a revolution of values … in order to get its priorities, its purposes, and its policies right; and so this is the thing that gives me new hope in the midst of war. I see young people saying, “We must see something better in life.” … And this is the thing that gives me hope as we move on into the tomorrow that awaits us.”

I share Dr. King’s optimism, about you. 
You – our students – are why we are excited about this new academic year. 
We respect you for who you are and challenge you to learn from each other. 
Why? Because this is who we are.

Thank you.