Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech to Manchester College exactly 40 years ago Feb. 1
The great civil rights leader is gone, as is the gymnasium where he delivered his last campus address before his assassination 40 years ago. But the memories of that emotion-charged moment at Manchester College linger steadfastly, as does the message delivered by Martin Luther King Jr.
On Friday, Feb. 1 – exactly 40 years since King delivered his address “The Future of Integration,” the Manchester College community will gather to commemorate the event with reflections, carefully preserved video and still photography, and song. The public is invited to join the 50-minute convocation at 10 a.m. in Cordier Auditorium.
The Feb. 1, 1968 event was years in the making, accomplished through the perseverance of then-President Blair Helman, despite protests and threats from some members of the community.
King’s magnificent cadence resonated in a gymnasium filled with a rapt crowd that rose to applause. Afterward, he lunched with a select few – including the editor of the campus newspaper, current President Jo Young Switzer.
“The way he spoke just inspired me to be a better person. He lifted all of us up; he said we’re all capable of more,” recalls Switzer, who this Feb. 1 will share the same podium and microphone. “He spoke for a very long time, yet he was so mesmerizing, it seemed to go by in a second.”
For the commemoration, students will read select portions of King’s April 16, 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail. Also on the program are reflections by Professor Emeritus Kenneth L. Brown, recipient of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award, and music by the College’s A Cappella Choir.
“This commemoration honors Dr. King’s speech – but even more importantly, it honors his ideals,” said Switzer. “We are better off individually and as a nation when we judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, a lesson that permeated King’s values.”
Manchester, a Church of the Brethren college, is home to the nation’s oldest peace studies program. For more about the College, visit www.manchester.edu.