Messages of hope and celebrations of achievement marked Princeton University's annual ceremony in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 in Richardson Auditorium.
The Rev. Charles G. Adams, a renowned pastor and activist, delivered an impassioned address urging people to emulate King and embrace the "dynamics of hope." The University also recognized Marvalene Hughes, the president of Dillard University, and Albert Raboteau, a longtime Princeton faculty member, for their inspirational leadership.
Adams, pastor of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit and a leader in faith-based economic development, cited King as an embodiment of how the power of hope can bring about real change to the world's many problems.
"You who are here in honor of Martin Luther King, you are the open doors of hope into a system that seems closed, final, futile and fatal," Adams said. "You who are privileged to be in this wonderful university are today being called and challenged to go into all the world and stand and serve it as living alternatives to ignorant optimism ... and crippling fatalism."
"The past is yours -- learn from it," Adams exhorted the audience. "The present is yours -- fulfill it. The future is yours -- preserve it. Knowledge is yours -- use it."
He added, "When the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. prevails and when we ourselves live and move in that spirit and according to that drumbeat, we will have a world that has truly been tilted from fear to hope and from war to peace. I am a prisoner of hope, and I thank God for the life of Martin Luther King Jr."
In her address, Hughes detailed the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans institution's campus, where every building but one was flooded. Dillard, a historically black university, shut down for the fall semester but this month reopened at a downtown hotel and various campuses around the city. The effort was aided by Princeton and Brown universities, which formed a partnership in September to help Dillard restore operations both in the short and long term.
Hughes, who took office as Dillard's president nearly two months before Katrina, noted that she finds inspiration in King's leadership as she faces the challenges of overseeing the university's reconstruction.
"In addition to the 'I Have a Dream' speech, we must think about the lifelong legacy that he left for us and the standards of leadership that he gave to us. I think of them often, and I think of how important they are to uplift me and keep me going," she said.
"It motivates me to study the leadership of a man who was determined, because I have had to dig deep into my body, into my soul, to find that determination when nothing else was there," Hughes said. "I have had to say to naysayers all around the country: Dillard University is not gone. Dillard University will survive. Dillard University is on its way back. And not only that -- in the final analysis, it will be back and better."
In introducing Hughes' address, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman lauded the Dillard president for leading the "Herculean task" of rebuilding the devastated campus.
"Our support has taken many forms -- from technical assistance to material resources -- and we stand ready to do more in the months and years ahead. Together, 'we shall overcome' the legacy of Hurricane Katrina, but it is Dillard's president, faculty, staff and students who will lead the way," Tilghman said.
Tilghman also presented Raboteau, one of the nation's foremost authorities on African-American religious history, with the MLK Day Journey Award for Lifetime Service.
The award was instituted last year to recognize members of the
Princeton campus community for their support for King's philosophy and
teachings and their contributions to the improvement of civil rights
and/or human rights.
In addition, the ceremony included the presentation of awards to essay, poster and video contest winners from area schools. This year's contests were intended to emphasize the power of the vote, in recognition of King's role in championing equal voting rights for all American citizens.
A Webcast of the event will be archived on the Webmedia site.