University Commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Legacy

Dr. Reginald Blount
Dr. Reginald Blount, left, delivered the sermon at the University's Jan. 16 observance of Martin Luther King Jr., Day.

'Find the strength to love,' says Garrett-Evangelical seminary professor

CHICAGO (January 19, 2012) – North Park University remembered the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 16 with a special worship and service day event at Anderson Chapel involving students and adult leaders from the Chicago area. The Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill., challenged the congregation to "find the strength to love" to help fulfill King's dream for all people.

Blount said King was "a shining example of what can happen when one commits his or her life to something worth dying for." Blount, an assistant professor of formation, youth and culture at Garrett-Evangelical, and senior pastor of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church, Waukegan, Ill., told the packed chapel that King accomplished much to advance civil rights in 13 short years, and was a catalyst for changing the world. In the 44 years since his death, great strides have been made to advance King's vision and dreams, Blount said, including the election of Barack Obama as president.

However, Blount insisted that King's dream still remains "a dream deferred" for many people of color because of racism, high unemployment, the dismantling of affirmative action, growing numbers in prison, declining college enrollment and inadequate funding for schools. Blount warned against becoming complacent about civil rights.

"Could it be that many of us have stopped acting on the dream? Could it be that many of us have decided that we've achieved enough?" he said. Quoting King, Blount also spoke of a kind of social "schizophrenia," in which people talk about peace, but prepare for war; say they want children to have an adequate education, yet hold down funding for public schools; say children are the future, but deny and block opportunities for them; and say every life is precious, then question whether health care if a right or privilege. 

King's dream will not be fulfilled "unless we find the strength to love," Blount said. He called on people to make sacrifices for the good of others. "That means that we ought to be willing to make enough of a sacrifice that no one goes hungry. That means we ought to be willing to make enough of a sacrifice to let those who are sick have access to adequate health care. That means we ought to make enough of a sacrifice that no child is truly left behind," he said. 

"Let's claim the strength to love so that when we come back again next year, this time we can declare that we have moved Dr. King's dream further and further towards being fulfilled," Blount added.

Readings and prayer at the service were contributed by Rev. Deborah Penny, Dr. Mary Adams Trujillo and Rev. Michael Thomas, University and Seminary faculty, staff, and students. Mittie Cowan, a North Park University student, sang two hymns.

After worship, about 35 high school students and their chaperones participated in a youth leadership service day experience at the University, said Rev. Velda R. Love, director for justice and intercultural learning. Youth and adults represented Evanston Township High School, Second Baptist Church and Beth Emet – The Free Synagogue, all in Evanston. Also present were students and adults from Options Laboratory Charter School and Young Life Chicago Northside, both in Chicago. They viewed King's well-known "I Have a Dream" speech, and discussed their own dreams with Blount.

The high school students then met in small groups with North Park University student leaders who discussed what it mean to be courageous leaders in school, at home, and in the world. The adults met separately to talk about challenges in teaching and raising their children, and incorporating faith practices into the lives of young people. The groups also discussed multicultural, multiracial and multi-faith issues they face. They concluded the day with a tour of the North Park University campus.

The University's Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities were sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Programs and the Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning.

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