SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
[MUSIC PLAYING - "SOON AND VERY SOON"]
CHOIR: (SINGING) Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Soon and very soon. Soon and very soon. We are going to see the king. Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Hallelujah, hallelujah, we're going to see the king.
Soon and very soon. Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Soon and very soon. Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Soon and very soon. Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, we're going to see the king.
No more crying there. No more crying there. We are going to see the king. No more crying there. No more crying there. We are going to see the king
No more crying there. No more crying there. We are going to see the king. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, we're going to see the king.
No more dying there. No more dying there. We are going to see the king. No more dying there. No more dying there. We are going to see the king. No more dying there. No more dying there. We are going to see the king. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, we're going to see the king.
KEN CLARKE: Good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
KEN CLARKE: I'm Ken Clarke, Director of Cornell United Religious Work and Chair of the Martin Luther King Junior Commemoration Committee on campus. Welcome to Cornell's King Commemoration for 2008. Today's event, as it has been since 2002, is a shared labor of energy time and planning. The multiple co-sponsors of this year's commemoration event are listed on your printed program on the back and will be acknowledged at the end of today's commemoration.
This afternoon, we are honored to have with us a world citizen in the tradition of Dr. King, one who worked with Dr. King for seven years in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that Dr. King founded, who wrote the first draft of what became King's most famous pronouncement against the Vietnam War, ultimately called "Beyond Vietnam and A Time to Break Silence," who has led a distinguished career as a historian of the African-American experience and an activist, who played an important role in the-- advisory role, I should say, in the founding of Cornell's Africana Studies and Research Center in 1969, Dr. Vincent Harding.
Dr. Harding's longtime friend and the struggle for racial justice and participatory democracy, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, will introduce him later in our program. The public career of Martin Luther King Junior from 1955 through 1968 constitutes part of the collective memory for many of us in this chapel. On the other hand, his legacy for many is the stuff of history as opposed to memory. A younger generation, born long after April 4, 1968, when Dr. King was assassinated, perceive him as a historical figure, in the same manner in which those of US born in the 1950s and with college students in the 1970s perceived the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s, epochal, formative memories for our parents, but the history about which we were told and about which we read.
One of the important purposes a King Commemoration can serve is to bridge the gap between the memory of an earlier generation and the history of a contemporary one. This purpose serves an especially important role in 2008. April 4 this year will mark the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death. The tragedy of that first Thursday in April of that year for those of us who lived through those years is seared and our memory.
On April 4, 1968, I was 11 years old sitting in my mother's kitchen as she prepared dinner at our house in West Baltimore. A news bulletin about Dr. King being shot in Memphis, Tennessee, was broadcast over WBAL AM on the brown oval Zenith radio in the kitchen. No word was given on his condition. An hour later, that same radio confirmed Dr. King's death.
Nearly 40 years later, I can still recall and even hear the sirens of police cars and fire engines wailing through that evening. It was the beginning of a week of riots in Baltimore and over 100 American cities, called by Peter Levy of York College the Holy Week uprisings of 1968 , as they mostly occurred in the week leading into Easter.
Yet, the expanded dream of Dr. King for full employment, health coverage for all citizens, peaceful resolution to global conflict, the defeat of what he called the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism did not die with the dream. Today we seek to honor Dr. King's legacy and indeed the life and work of Dr. Harding that is continued that legacy-- while I spill water-- by highlighting for inspiring student leaders, emerging voices of this generation, to speak of the hope that has animated their own work for compassionate social change.
Though Dr. King is a part of a history of which they are aware and a memory for others of us, there is continuity across the generations that is shared, a continuity of hope that is found in struggle, of which theologian James Cone writes, sustained Dr. King and his efforts to transform American society, a continuity of trouble as a result of that hope, of which Dr. Harding his written, describing it as an ongoing, flowing river of struggle for freedom in America.
Before I introduce our four students this afternoon, we wish to pay silent tribute this afternoon to the memory of one who exemplified hope amidst struggle, one who learned primarily from the example of the one whom we honor today. I speak of Yolanda Denise King, who three short years ago in this very chapel electrified us with a tour de force artistic and spoken word performance recounting the significant events of the black freedom struggle in the 1950s and '60s while promoting the values that make for authentic human community and participatory democracy. She left us all too soon late last spring. Please take a silent moment to honor her memory and the gift of her legacy that she continues to be in our midst.
Thank you. The first of our four student leaders give reflections this afternoon is Hali Booker, class of 2008, College of Arts and Sciences. Hali became involved with cultural programming through Ujamaa House and Black Students United as a first-year student. She is now president of ALANA, the African Latino, Asian, Native American Programming Board, and has worked to expand student membership and provide opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to come together.
Hali is also the student coordinator of the New York City Alternative Spring Break sponsored through Cornell's public service center. Hali feels her life was greatly enriched by growing up in the culturally diverse city of Los Angeles. Her passion at Cornell has been to organize programs to foster authentic dialogue between students of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Hali's living legacy has been to inspire leadership and fellow students.
Miles Garrett, our second speaker, is a second-year graduate student in sociology. Miles completed his undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy at the University of Kansas. In 2006, he was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Miles is actively involved in programs and groups on campus addressing cultural and religious diversity. He is a frequent contributor to the Cornell Daily Sun and an active support of the multi-faith initiatives of Cornell United Religious Work and Sage Chapel. As outreach coordinator for Cornell Minds Matter, a diverse organization of student leaders promoting the overall mental and emotional health of Cornell students, he has worked to establish a supportive relationship between minds, matter, and compos mentis. Compos mentis as an Ithaca community program that offers adults diagnosed with mental illness a place to work in community with others and engage in purposeful activities under the supervision of trained staff and volunteers.
Our third speaker is Andrew Lee, class of 2008, College of Arts and Sciences. Andrew has been actively involved in many programs on the Cornell campus, especially those affecting the experiences of Asian and Asian-American students. This past weekend, as co-director of Cornell chapter of the East Coast Asian-American Student Union, he oversaw the largest student conference held at Cornell when 1,200 Asian-American students came to meet.
Three decades ago, this organization's founders fought alongside civil rights activists to create equal rights for people of color. The vision for ECAASU 2008 at Cornell was to revive that passion and that was in the hearts of its founders, examine the progress of Asian-American activism over the past three decades, and envision the next three decades. Andrew is particularly proud that ECAASU '08 has chosen to include an entire track of programming in relation to concerns facing the Asian and Asian-American LGBT community. This fall, Andrew has been accepted into the teach for America program and will teach math for the next two years in New York City public school system.
Finally, but not least, Iris Delgado, class of 2009, College of Arts and Sciences, is a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., the Multicultural Greek Letter Council, the Minority Finance Commission, Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble, and ALANA, which she serves as a vice president. Iris majors in English and feminist gender and sexuality studies with concentrations in Latino studies and inequality studies.
Iris has been able to work with the future of minority studies, redefining identity politics as well as nonprofit organizations focused on the betterment of multicultural youth in America. As a writer, Iris's focus is to develop the voice of the Latina women in the United States who have suffered oppression due to socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and cultural differences. She hopes to attend law school where she will focus on gender and civil rights matters. She lives each day by the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the world. Let us welcome our student speakers.
HALI BOOKER: Hi, everybody. Can everyone hear me? OK. So I'm not the greatest speaker, so I'm going to try to do this as smoothly as possible. So I'm going to try and just talk so I'm not really talking at you.
In December, right before we went to winter break, [INAUDIBLE], our advisor for ALANA asked me to consider the reasons why I get involved with the different groups I'm involved with on Cornell's campus. And I kind of thought that at first I was just a part of these groups because I wanted to be a leader, I wanted to be in charge, I wanted to have a presence on this campus. But as it turned out, I chose to be a part of groups that I thought I could belong to and that would give me an identity while I'm here at Cornell.
So the different groups I've been involved with over the four years that I've been here are Black Students United, Alternative Spring Breaks, the Minority Business Students Association, and ALANA, the African, Latino, Asian, Native American Programming Board. So organizations like that have helped me to kind of shape my identity into who I am now and who I'm about to be when I graduate.
And so my first two years here, I initially came in as a student coming from a multicultural background. Four out of my five best friends were Asian. But I came here, and I kind of drifted toward Ujamaa just because this school is about three times the size of my high school, and I felt like I needed to connect with a community that I could easily find some sort of similarities in. And I really enjoyed that experience at Ujamaa, but at the same time, I felt like I was missing out on a part of the wider Cornell community that is available here.
So I met, actually, Jamal Williams while living in Ujamaa, and he pretty much told me that I should get involved with ALANA. And so here I am today. And with ALANA, I've kind of found my home, essentially. It gives me the opportunity to focus on programming that is not only specific to the different cultural group-- the minority cultural groups, specifically, on campus, but it also allows me to explore the options of cooperation and collaboration between these different cultural groups because I feel that's something that we often miss out on a lot. Even though we are here living in cohabitating together, we often segregate ourselves, and not necessarily by our own faults but just by the natural inclination of being in a large university and wanting to find some place that you can call home. So through ALANA I've actually tried really hard to make-- not make organizations, but try to guide organizations to a point where they can collaborate cooperatively and work together to find out their different similarities and their differences about how those differences and similarities can foster stronger relationships between the two.
So I really I really appreciate having an opportunity to get involved in ALANA because, for now, it's helped me guide what I want to do once I graduate. Even after I work for a couple of years and do whatever I want to do, my end goal is to really focus on helping the multicultural community at large collaborate more, and also to better them in ways financially and culturally and whatnot. But I really just want to focus my life's goal on the multicultural community at large. Thank you.
MILES GARRETT: I used to kind of thing for microphones in high school. One time at a pep rally, I walked on stage and tried to grab the mic of the principal's hands. My speech, though unplanned, would involve the criticism of the school's new administration, an accusation of totalitarianism, an announcement of an upcoming walkout. I'm somewhat relieved and a little bit disappointed that I wasn't able to pull this off.
But here at Cornell, they place microphones in front of me, and I could get used to this. I was kind of a loose cannon in high school, and I shudder to think that if I was black, I probably would've been pushed down the path to prison. Instead, I was pulled out the path to graduate school and the Ivy League.
When I was 17, my rebelliousness led me to being threatened with expulsion from my high school. My community, all the teachers, counselors, and coaches who had shaped my development for 17 years, turned a blind eye. I had no idea where to turn.
My father, however, taught me a lesson in compassion that I'll never forget. This man and I had done nothing but fight for two years. But when I needed him most, he was there. He called neighboring school districts, met with administrators, and ensured that I got accepted into and graduated from another high school. He could have watched me sink like a rock in treacherous waters. Instead, he found me a community when I had none.
Fast forward several years to my time here at Cornell. I often find myself questioning my place in graduate school. The successes of academic life are so individualized. It gets kind of cold here, too.
But I always find meaning to the organizations with which I'm involved. It's in the student and community groups that I find compassion and try to return that compassion to others. When I first arrived at Cornell, I was quite taken aback by how little the racial community here seem that overlap. I understand this to be true across most of the state, as Jonathan Kozol has reported, that New York has the most segregated school system in the United States. This has been difficult for me because I identify with people from many different races and with many different personalities.
As such, the groups I find myself drawn to today are characterized by diversity, be it based on race, faith, or mental health. It's through the compassion of community and family that I was saved from the mistakes of my childhood and through that same compassion that I find meaning in my life here at Cornell.
I'd like to close with a Langston Hughes poem that sort of fits the occasion. It's called "I Too." "I too sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, but I laugh and eat well and grow strong. Soon I'll be at the table when company comes. Nobody will dare say to me, eat in the kitchen then. Besides, they'll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed. I too am America."
ANDREW LEE: Hi. So you might have noticed over 1,200 Asian students this weekend and their red backpacks bombarding Cornell campus this weekend for the East Coast Asian-American Student Union conference, short is ECAASU. And yes, it was a remarkable weekend that I thought was tremendously successful. But I had to overcome many personal barrier and struggles to achieve this. Similarly, I had to overcome many personal barriers when I founded FAQ Online, which was an LGBT online service, and also as president of Asian Pacific Americans For Action, which is a sociopolitical Asian group on campus.
Now, what do I mean by this? For one, I never really saw myself as a leader, and certainly not a leader at the same caliber as Martin Luther King, Jr. And how am I, a skinny Asian boy with a soft-spoken voice, supposed to lead groups of people? And also, public speaking isn't really my forte. It takes a lot out of me to just get up on this podium and speak to a large crowd, which I also did speak to 15,000 people-- 1,500 people. It's a big difference.
Even now, like my throat is tightening up a little bit. And you can't see, but my leg's shaking. And additionally, aside from that, it's always a personal struggle of mine to come out of the closet as a gay Asian. And I always have to do this whenever I speak about FAQ Online, which is a chat service for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community at Cornell. And so that's what I do every single time.
But I felt that I shouldn't let insecurities get in the way of my work. I felt passionate about things, and I let it drive me. And you know what? I picked up a little confidence along the way, and I learned some more things about myself. And what I was passionate about was my work with the Asian and the LGBT communities.
And I always felt like a man without a country. On one side, you have the Asian community that never really considers itself that one of its own kind can be gay, and on the other side, you have the LGBT community, which is usually considered mostly white. So I always felt stuck in between two worlds.
But instead of letting that get me down, I let it drive my ambitions. I pioneered this weekend the first ever queer Asian gathering at the ECAASU conference, where gay Asian-Americans from across the country and can get together and meet each other and share their experiences. I also initiated an LGBT Asian workshop tract at this conference. And outside of ECAASU, I also felt a need for not an anonymous service for a closeted LGBT people to become more comfortable with their sexual orientation, which is why I founded FAQ Online late in my freshman year.
So yeah, this skinny Asian boy has grown up. I'm still a little camera shy, I'm still soft-spoken, but I never let this prevent me from effecting change in the community. Thank you.
IRIS DELGADO: Good afternoon. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. And so Martin Luther King began the most controversial speech of his career. A little over 40 years ago, about 225 miles where we now congregate, Dr. Martin Luther King took the pulpit at the Riverside Church in New York City. The date was April 4, 1967.
In his speech that day, Dr. King remarked that a time comes when silence is betrayal. King realized that the promise and potential of President Johnson's Great Society would never be fulfilled as long as the United States spent billions of dollars on the war in Vietnam. Furthermore, King knew that his doctrine of nonviolence would no longer resonate with those who were rioting in the streets of America.
But they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. The questions be at home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.
And for these words and for speaking the truth as he saw it, Dr. King was met with scorn and ridicule. Time magazine called the speech demagogic slander that sounds like a script for radio Hanoi. The Washington Post declared that King had diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, and his people.
In the spirit of the great Dr. King, I stand before you now. When I thought about what I was going to write today, I was scared to point out the parallels between 1967 and 2008. But I am comforted by the legacy of Dr. King and the courage that it gives me today to say that it's time that my generation broke its silence about the war in Iraq. After all, King sat on the shoulders of the activist college students of his day and sustained a movement that changed history in the America nation.
Conservative estimates place the total cost of the war in Iraq over $1 trillion, $1 trillion of death and destruction, of bombs and bullets. But what if there was another way? Imagine all that money invested in schools, infrastructures, and hospitals. For King was correct when he said that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.
What if we used all that money for medicine and clean water, and providing access to all the things that truly made people feel liberated? A movement has begun across America, one that promises that a new generation is ready to assume the mantle of leadership. We have seen college students engaged in the political process, in casting their ballots in record numbers, all in an effort for their voices to be heard. This, of course, is only the beginning.
If our generation is to embody the true revolution of values that King spoke of so dearly, every single one of us has a responsibility. If we are to become the standard bearers, if the torch has been passed down to us, then as children of the Civil Rights movement and the descendants of Dr. King, we have one action. We must speak. We must speak out as a chorus of millions joined together, leading America on a path that reflects the ideals and hope of freedom that our nation was founded on.
As Dr. King so eloquently stated that day, "these are the times of real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives will be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions. But we must protest, for in the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
So this is why I am here before you today, as a student with the gift of voice, with the honor of an education, and the ability to speak for those who have been silenced. Where do you stand? Thank you.
KEN CLARKE: Hali, Miles, Andrew, and Iris, thank you so much for your eloquent, heartfelt, and courageous words this afternoon. As I invite my friends from Calvary Baptist and St. Paul's United Methodist Church, their combined choir, to come and sing, please note that they will sing the first two verses of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," and we the, shall I say, congregation will join in on the third and final verse, which is an insert in your credit programs.
[MUSIC PLAYING - "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING"]
CHOIR: (SINGING) Lift every voice and sing, till Earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies. Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod felt in the day when hope unborn had died. Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet come to the place on which our fathers sighed.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered out from the gloomy past till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, God who has brought us thus far on the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.
DOROTHY COTTON: So great to look out and see this kind of audience. I'm still moved by it, given my history and our focus for today. And As. I pondered what I would share in introducing my good friend and colleague, Dr. Vincent Harding, it occurred to me that you could read all the biographical stuff, you know, the degrees and the professional career and all that stuff you usually get when somebody speaks. And I decided that I wanted to lift up something else, a very special aspect of Vince Harding. We call him Vince. People say, has anybody talked to Vince recently? And we know exactly who they're talking about because his name just flows throughout the movement world, that great movement for social change.
I wanted to lift up a very special aspect because I think that what I started to feel was, or is, something that you probably won't read about. It's kind of a personal recollection, but I thought this was would be more-- certainly felt right for me. So I want to ask you to picture this, a dedicated group of nonviolent fighters. I want to find some more non-militaristic language. Anybody-- linguists can help me with it.
But picture a dedicated group of nonviolent fighters for justice returning to our home base in Atlanta, a group excited because, though we had known all our lives that our country leadership did not care that the wonderful documents on which our country was founded, they did not care that these documents were not meant for a whole segment of the population, folk that looked like us. Not only were massive numbers of people left out, but we were scorned, we were abused and brutalized via unspeakable cruelty. And I know this falls mysteriously and strangely on many ears. Many of you were not born when we had what I call American-style apartheid in this country.
Well, there came a time when people en masse were in motion to right the wrongs marring the social and political landscape of our country, a country which had put forth such promise in its founding documents. All persons born or naturalized are citizens, you know the language, you know the words. The exclusion of massive numbers of people of color was enforced by legal and extralegal means.
But we set in motion a mighty force, as Vince Harding called it, a force, a movement to advance democracy in our country. It was a mighty battle. The abused and disenfranchised one day decided, if things would change, this American-style apartheid, we-- they-- we would have to change it ourselves.
To do so, very special resources were needed. We would need a place to be together, to realize our strength. We would need someone who would be a guiding light. We would need someone who could provide nourishment for our bodies and spirits, who would be teacher, who would be encourager, who would be friend and stalwart co-worker, providing I know now what few would be able to provide.
Vincent Harding was that teacher, smack dab in the midst of this movement. He was that encourager. He was that friend and co-worker. He walked with Martin Luther King, Jr., offering help and counsel, offering support and being involved at different levels.
Few could do what Vincent did in that way. It required a loving and compassionate person. Vincent not only by his wise counsel and friendship and joining the struggle in a unique and creative way, the gift he brought was unique. It was sorely needed.
Vincent Harding prepared a place to which we could retreat-- I'll never forget it, Vincent-- to which we could return from the battlefields of Birmingham, Selma, Alabama, Virginia, St. Augustine, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, Petersburg, Virginia, Ruleville, Mississippi, from which Fannie Lou Hamer came where she lived, Canton, Mississippi where Anna Divine lived, places all across the southern and border states. We could come to this very special retreat, this special home, in order to be renewed, a place that Vince and Rosemarie Harding had prepared for us. This was Mennonite House.
I can picture steel and feel the welcome, the warmth, and remember the feeling of renewal of being welcomed and fed, body and soul, by Vincent and Rosemarie Harding. At Mennonite house, we could come in from the field of battle and we could be quiet. We could break bread together. We could meditate. We could enjoy and did a wonderful fellowship.
We could sing the songs of Zion. We were always singing. The songs helped us to be strong. And together we could reflect on the battles from which we were returning and prepare to go out again to continue the struggle to make America be true to what it had said on paper.
Vince, one on one, provided counsel and support and a spirit of brotherhood to Martin, to Fannie Lou, to me, to Big Lester, to Hosea, to Victoria Gray, to J.T. Johnson, to Andrew Young, to Wyatt Tee Walker, to James Orange, who we will be burying this coming weekend, all of us so many names you never heard but who were in the midst of it all, having committed their lives to this freedom struggle.
I don't know what we would have done without that wonderful warm spiritual place of brotherhood and sisterhood and that place of renewal that you created and maintained when you decided to make such a unique contribution, Vincent. I sense that only you with your wise, loving, and caring spirit could have contributed so wonderful a gift to the struggle that changed America. We needed you even before we realized we did.
And now you continue to teach and to interpret that powerful movement, both as you travel and as you write, creating a record of what happened and lifting the lessons from that transforming experience. As I read and reread and study your writing, I know that what C. Eric Lincoln said about your first book, There Is a River, that what he said is true. He said, and I quote, "not since W. E. Du Bois has anyone written about the black experience with such meticulous scholarship, such cogency, and such deep personal understanding."
There Is a River. If you haven't seen it, it's in the bookstore. "Not since W. E. Du Bois has anyone written about the black experience with such meticulous scholarship, such cogency, and such deep personal understanding." And as David Bradley of The Washington Post said, Harding's research is voluminous, and his writing is elegantly literate. Hope and history-- actually, I'd call this one my favorite because I don't go many places to speak myself without having this somewhere tucked away in my luggage, Hope and History, also available.
I reread-- that's not about-- I'm telling you what the books mean to me. It's not about selling, but I want to know how wonderful they are.
I reread as I ponder what to share with those who are coming after what we did. And I know that it's important because the last time I stood in this room, someone handed me an article that was a reporting that-- I think it was The Washington Post-- that they did a survey amongst college-age people, and they thought that Dr. King was working to abolish slavery. So we need these books that tell the story. And that was just not even a year ago.
Yes, I believe, Vincent, that you understand what we were about more than many others who were actively involved. And you continue to this day to interpret by your writing and speaking, pulling lessons from the history that can guide us now. You understood that we were building up a new world, and that we must keep the courage and not grow weary, though the road be long.
Those poetic lines, you wrote, as you paraphrased a song, an ancient song of our ancestors, you paraphrased, we are climbing Jacob's ladder. Vance's paraphrase that instead of climbing Jacob's ladder, he wrote, we are building up a new world. We are building up a new world, and builders must be strong.
And as I prepare to go to my seat-- and I hope you feel something other than just telling you how many degrees he has-- I want you to think about the vision that looms very large for me as I think about how Vincent paraphrased that old tune, "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder." And we don't need an instruments, but I want you to sing that. I'm going to go to my seat before we finish it, and then Dr. Vincent Harding will come. We're building up a new world, the tune of Jacob's ladder.
(SINGING) We are building up a new world, up a new world. We are building up a new-- everybody sing it. It's easy. We are building up a-- builders must be strong. Builders must be-- courage, sisters, don't get weary. Courage, sisters, don't get-- courage brothers. Courage, brothers, don't get-- courage people.
Courage people, don't forget, though the road by long. Though the road be-- rise, shine, give God the glory. Rise, shine, give God the glory. These are Vince's words. Rise, shine-- Oh, won't you give God the glory. Rise, shine, give God the glory. Children of the light. Children of the light.
Now, as Vince comes up, we're building up a new world softly. We are-- sing the new world. Building-- Dr. Harding-- up a new world. We are building up a new world. We are building up a new world. Builders must be strong.
VINCENT HARDING: How can you go wrong with a sister like that? And how can you go wrong with children like these?
And choir, you thought that you were finished singing, but I'd like to play with one of the songs that you sang. As you can tell from Dorothy's account, I like to play with those songs and keep using them in different ways. And I'd like you to sing again just one stanza of that "Soon and Very Soon." But I'd like you to sing, soon and very soon, we're going to change the world. OK? Maybe that's meeting the King also. Please, choir, just where you are.
CHOIR: (SINGING) Soon and very soon we are going to change the world.
VINCENT HARDING: (SINGING) Yes. Soon and very soon we are going to change the world. Soon and very soon we are going to change the world. Hallelujah, hallelujah, we are going to change the world.
Thank you, dears. Thank you. Last night, after a marvelous day here on the campus, I was reporting to a dear friend of mine who was out in California what my day had been like, how I had managed to get to Syracuse five hours late. After trying to land at Syracuse and being blown, almost literally blown, away we went into Rochester, and figured things out and then came back. I was telling her about how good it was for me to see Dorothy Cotton again after many, many years, fellow traveler, companion, worker for a new world.
But what I was most excited about was telling her what it meant for me to meet the students here at Cornell because she knows that I have become, in my old age, just about obsessed with the question, what is the future of democracy in America? And when I met the students in various kinds of gatherings and meals and run-ins, it was just a magnificent assurance of the possibility that the struggle for the expansion of democracy is going to go on and on and on.
And students, I want you to know, and those of you who are not students I want you to know, that it is the kind of struggle that will never end and. Therefore do not enter it looking for an end point. It goes on as long as humanity goes on. The struggle to expand democracy in America and make America the kind of country that it has the capacity to be is a struggle that never ends, a beautiful struggle, a life-giving struggle, a struggle that will make us more human than we ever thought we could be. I was just bubbling over with this message to my friend.
And I want to explain to you why I was so excited about what I had experienced here. I keep as a kind of special memory the words of one of the great religious teachers of this country, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who was a friend of Martin King, who was a marcher with Martin King, and who when Martin, as my assistant iris was reminding us, was coming under great attack from many wonderful liberal people in the North, gathered together a community of his Jewish brothers and sisters and said this about King, one week before the assassination. "Martin Luther King is a voice, a vision, and a way. I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow in his way."
And then he added this. Obviously not confined to his co-religionists, he said this. "The whole future of America will depend on the impact and influence of Dr. King." The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr. King. So when I saw these students and heard them and engaged in conversations with them and sensed them trying to go deep past the surface understandings of King, I felt that there is hope, there is possibility. And when I heard them this evening just leaving out the things that he was deeply concerned about, I felt very, very glad.
But I want to make sure that if we take seriously Heschel's statement that the whole future of America depends upon the impact and influence of Dr. King, I'd like to be sure that we know who this King was that he was talking about. Heschel, of course, had heard "I Have A Dream," and he could repeat it as well as all the rest of us.
But remember, Heschel was making this statement six days before King's assassination. He had seen more to King than "I Have A Dream." And what I would like to remind us about, especially those of us who are trying to figure out how we can help this country to allow a King sense to enter it's being, I would like to remind us of just some very simple things. And then I'm hoping that we will have at least a little time for you to speak back to me what you think, what you hear, and what you are asking.
But listen, when Heschel said what he did, he knew already said Martin Luther King, Jr., that PhD in philosophical theology, that that guy with what people call the highest level of academic achievement, Heschel knew that that King had chosen to spend his days, which would be his last days, working with garbage workers. That was the King upon whom the whole future of America depends, who takes a PhD to work with garbage collectors. In '68, if you were a garbage collector, you were not high tech at all. You were smelly and dirty and terribly underpaid, and that's where King was, among the smelling and dirty and terribly underpaid. And there may still be something like that around if anybody is interested in taking too seriously as the basis for way of life, as the basis, and I sayeth here, as a way of understanding what to do with a PhD.
I'd like us to be sure that we remember that. I'd like us to be sure we remember that Martin King was not accidentally in Memphis, but King had come to certain conclusions about his life and what his life was for by that time. And I'd like to remind us what he had to say when he was in one of my old stomping grounds and Bob's old stomping ground on the west side of Chicago. King was clearly going sort of crazy because he had just come through a tremendous campaign and the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the world was praising him. And the next thing you know, he's in Chicago in the winter on the west side, trying to understand what is his relationship to the folks of the west side.
And there he said something that gives us a sense of where he was and what he was doing and what he had committed himself to do and to be. Listen to King. It's important to hear King, for this is the King upon whom the whole future of America may depend. 1966, two years before his assassination, surely related to his assassination, King says, "I choose to identify with the underprivileged. No upward mobility here."
This child of the black middle class says, "I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. I choose to live for and with those who find themselves seeing life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. This is the way I'm going.
"If it means suffering a little bit, I'm going that way. if it means sacrificing, I'm going that way. If it means dying for them, I'm going their way because I heard a voice saying, do something for others."
The King the beautiful mountainside of little black girls and black boys and white girls and white boys holding hands together is absolutely wonderful and absolutely necessary, but not sufficient. To capture the meaning of the King, this is the King who must be added to that if we are to know how to expand democracy in America in such a way that it will not die.
And King began to take that stuff seriously. You see, we talk about him as a great orator. But very often great orators only orate. But King tried try to live what he was orating, tried to walk his talk. That's a different story altogether.
And David Halberstam, one of the great journalists of the last century, figured out what this meant for King and what it might mean, for anybody like King. Halberstam heard King talking about identifying with the poor, and Halberstam wrote these words. "King has decided to represent the ghettos." Remember, these were exploding ghettos all over the country.
"King has decided to represent the ghettos. He will work in them and speak for them, but their voice is harsh and alienating. If King is to speak for them truly, then his voice must reflect theirs, too. It too must be alienated, and it is likely to be increasingly at odds with the rest of American society."
For those who want everything to be sweet and nice and acceptable, don't pay any attention to King. But keep remembering as you go that the rabbi said the whole future of America depends upon taking King seriously. Those are the kinds of commitments that led King not only to Memphis but led him, as Iris reminds us, to Riverside Church, led him to speak out against a rule that in 2008 seems sadly familiar.
Iris was wonderful in her reading of what King had to say. And let me remind you of where that commitment to the poor can lead a person when his nation is carrying on a war against poor people-- rough territory.
Then King spoke at Riverside and said these words. "As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men--" by the way, King was always trying to walk right there, was trying not to run away from the desperate, angry young people, but walking right in the middle of them. Not afraid of them, not condemning them, but walking in the middle of them and trying to figure out what could be done with them. That's part of the legacy of King.
"As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I had tried to offer them my deepest compassion. I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles will not solve their problems. I've tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.
"But they asked me, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if their own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
The whole future of America depends upon the impact and influence of the one who could not be silent. It was King who said again and again, our life begins ending when we remain silent about things that we should speak on. I am simply trying to remind us that this is the King who must be taken seriously if he is to be taken at all. And I'm trying to remind us good the whole future of America depends upon the impact and influence of Dr. King.
The whole future of America. As I was reflecting on this statement, thinking about coming here to be with young people especially, another young person came into my mind, someone who was even younger than King, someone who came to love in many, many ways, someone who debated with King again and again, and someone who we usually think of as being a big, bad, radical dude who kept shouting, black power.
I thought about Stokely Carmichael. Remember, Stokely was King's younger brother, and that was the way that King understood him. And I remembered Stokely saying this. "For racism to die, a truly different America must be born." And I know King would add, and for materialism to die and for militarism to die along with racism, a truly different America must be born.
And then I thought of coming to Cornell and wondering, would I find any midwives here for the coming of the new America? And I began to meet them and I began to hear them, and I began to realize that there is hope.
I want to say so much more, but I'm going to say so much less. I'm going to finish you off what I want to say by reminding you of a poet that someone was kind enough to repeat and paraphrase here. How did you meet Langston Hughes? It was good to see you with him you guys go together. It's all right.
Martin King was speaking the same words, essentially, as Langston Hughes, as my young brother here. Hughes said-- and this is where I would like to ask you to just move with the thought of what it means. Hughes said-- and this was back in the 1930s. Hughes said, "oh, yes, I say it plain. America never was America to me."
But he didn't stop there, complaining about America. That's easy. There's enough to complain about in America for seven lifetimes. But he didn't stop there. Instead, he went on. "Oh, yes, I say it plain. America never was America to me." That's what Martin was saying, and Martin was saying even more.
"America never was America to me, and yet I swear this oath. America will be an ever-living seed. Its dream lies deep in the heart of me." And so when I think about the future and my young people here and my young people out there, I think about that building cadence of Hughes's poem, when he says, we the people.
"We the people must redeem our land, the mines, the plains, the rivers, the mountains, and the endless plains, all, all the stretch of these great green states. We must make America again."
Now, I want to tell you how good it feels to me to see somebody who looks like he might be just a little bit younger than me shaking his head when I say that. He is ready to make America again. He must be at least 60, maybe even more, ready to make America again. Everybody who is being called to that task now. Not waiting for Obama, even though it's a wonderful waiting to think of, not waiting for Hillary, and surely not waiting for some of those other folks.
But recognizing the truth of what our sister June Jordan said and meant, we are the ones we've been waiting for. The whole future of America depends upon us realizing that we are the ones we've been waiting for. That's what is being so excited about what's happening now in this year. People are beginning to understand we are the ones we've been waiting for, and we've even though Cesar Chavez into it. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
Yes, we can. Yes, we will. The whole future of America depends upon our recognition that we can and we must and we will. That is what I wanted to say. That is what I wanted to remind you of containing King and his meaning for us. That is what we were singing about, and that now is what I hope for just a few minutes longer some of you will want to say something about, ask something about, disagree something about, because Hannah or Arendt, that wonderfully crazy magnificent intellectual, was right when she said, it is when we are in dialogue that we are most human, not when somebody is throwing it out to us, when we are in dialogue that we are most human.
What you have to say about what I had to say? What do you have to ask about what I have to say? What do you want to throw at what I had to say? Here is a space, democratic space.
SPEAKER 2: We have a [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: A hand back here, Jan.
AUDIENCE: Can everyone hear me?
VINCENT HARDING: Yes, yes, we can hear you. You're doing well.
AUDIENCE: First off, I want to thank you for [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: Go ahead. Use it. It's all right.
VINCENT HARDING: Let me just pause you right there for a moment. This old professor never allowed anybody to speak in this class unless the identify themselves. Anonymity and democracy do not go together. Anonymity and humanity do not go together. I need to hear your voice and hear your name, and then we can keep on going with your wonderful question that I see forming and shaping.
AUDIENCE: My name's Max [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: Max [INAUDIBLE]? Try the microphone again, Max.
AUDIENCE: My name's Max [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: Your last name is [INAUDIBLE]? West African [INAUDIBLE]? All right. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: So the way I see it, Dr. King was fighting for equality and unity. And I'm just wondering what can the youth do, what can the Cornell community, what can the whole Ithaca community, what can the nation do to bring about this unity and to play the same type of play, even though some of those inequalities, some of those issues that he was facing aren't necessarily on the surface today?
VINCENT HARDING: Max, thank you, but don't sit down yet. Tell me what you think might be one or two things that might be done here in a place like Cornell.
AUDIENCE: Well, I think that one thing that some of the seniors were talking-- the other seniors were talking about today was the segregation that kind of goes on in the community, whether it's on purpose or not. And I can see the benefit of some of the actions that people take in terms of paying a lot of attention to diversity. And all of that's good. It's really been beneficial to me and a lot of the Cornell students that are here today.
I'm guessing that if we bring about forums where we can all talk and collaborate-- and a lot of these things are put in place, like breaking of bread and things like that, and I understand what the administration is doing to help rid of that. But I think there was some more dialogue between students and the administration on ways that students would feel better about bringing about these changes and bringing about these forums, then you'd get programs that aren't just made up as an idea in some administrator's office, but rather something that the students want to learn about. And I hope I'm not stepping on anyone's foot here.
VINCENT HARDING: Even if you are, we need you. If you are, we need you. Thank you, Max.
But you've hit so much right on the nail, that change, to be really effective, most often has to come from the bottom up, has to come from those who are most deeply, continuously, day after day affected. And only as they take the initiative and say, this must change, can real change find its place. That is what democracy is about, opening up space for us to figure out how to bring about the change that we need to make us more human beings.
You've, Max, asked and answered your own question. That is wonderful, and that too is part of what we are able to do more than we could because what happens is that when we allow ourselves to ask the question, a whole set of stuff starts going off in the brain cells of ours, and we recognize that we already begin to know what the answer is. But as long as we stay shut up and don't let the questions come out, we don't even know that we've got some answers already hidden there.
So Max [INAUDIBLE], thank you very, very much, my brother. And maybe after we are finished, you and I can talk some more about even more specific things that will help open up the kind of space that your fellow students here have been working on.
A few more before we stop ourselves. There's somebody way over on the side. You've got the chaplain running around with-- what a wonderful activity this is. Chaplain's running around the church. Last time I saw that-- just watch out. She might try to run under the pews after a while.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name is [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: I didn't get your name, my brother.
VINCENT HARDING: I got him.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. I'm a senior here at Cornell University at the School of International Labor Relations.
VINCENT HARDING: Keep your voice up. Keep your voice up.
AUDIENCE: My question is, given the nature-- the entrenched nature and the systemic nature of racism, materialism, and militarism in Americ, as well even in the worldwide system, how is it that we can as a people, or agents of change, really effect a system-wide change. I mean, [INAUDIBLE] do what you can [INAUDIBLE] influence every little one will all add up to-- the multiples will add up to the whole. However, is it disingenuous to say that all of that, given the entrenched nature and the systemic nature of these many things we're trying to change, is it disingenuous to say that we can truly change it, or is it as Langston Hughes said, hope deferred and we'll be like a raisin under the sun that will dry up?
VINCENT HARDING: As Langston Hughes said in that poem, but in the poem that I shared with you-- you have to choose which Hughes you want to go to. All right? Thank you very much for the question. It is a natural question, and your very words give hint of what a lot of us feel a lot of the time-- entrenched, systemic, deep. It just sounds so hard.
But Dorothy and I come from places where we walked and lived among people who were suffering from some of the most entrenched racism, terrorism that you can think of. And they were counted out as being of any real capacity to do anything about it because they were southern black folks. They were peasants.
And sometimes, my brother, the only way that I can answer your question is, I saw people breaking through that. Fearful I know that breaking through can take place. That's a necessary starting point. Once we start there, rather than with all the entrenched and terrible and systemic, once we start, wow, some people did that. Some people-- how did they do it? What was involved?
Then we begin to ask different kinds of questions, and we can do together what you were just asking here. Find some other folks, maybe just two or three others, who are really serious about wanting to figure out, how have people broken through? What is necessary to break through the systemic terrors to open up to new possibilities?
I would say-- and you would expect an old professor of the say it-- do some hard studying about how it was done, not to copy it, but to be inspired to develop your own copies for this time. But do not miss the opportunity to realize that the 20th century was a century of tremendous human transformation. Even though it was a century of tremendous death and terror as well, there were also magnificent models of how people could stand up against the darkness.
And going and find as much about that time as you can, and then get at least two other people to talk with you about it so that you won't be deceiving yourself and making believe that you know what you don't know. I think that if you can just keep asking the question-- our dear sister Alice Walker says, love the questions. Love the questions.
Don't be afraid to have the questions. That's what we need. Have the questions, work with them, and I think the way will be found. One strange man someplace far away once said, if you really hunger and thirst after righteousness, you will be filled. So don't be afraid to hunger. Thank you, my dear brother.
Here's a hand. Are you pointing at the clock or raising your hand? We'll have one or two more, and then we're going to stop. Yes, friend?
VINCENT HARDING: Thank you.
VINCENT HARDING: Tell me your name again.
VINCENT HARDING: OK.
AUDIENCE: I have a question. You said that fighting for freedom [INAUDIBLE] struggle. And yet you were against the Vietnam war, with the [INAUDIBLE] fighting against northern Vietnamese communists. Ended up [INAUDIBLE]. So I have a question. Is it when money's involved that [INAUDIBLE] isn't worth the struggle, or-- at what point do we stop struggling for the problems of other people?
VINCENT HARDING: Let me make sure that I understand your question. I don't recognize myself as having said anyplace that I was against the struggles of the Vietnamese for their own country's independence from foreign domination. Did you hear something like that?
AUDIENCE: Well, in an early stage I heard, was it worth the United States throwing billions of dollars away fighting communism in Vietnam.
VINCENT HARDING: Put that closer.
AUDIENCE: I heard in a previous [INAUDIBLE] from one of students that it was not worth throwing away billions of dollars from the United States at fighting communism in Vietnam.
VINCENT HARDING: Oh, I see.
AUDIENCE: Can you repeat the question?
VINCENT HARDING: The question was that our brother Roger heard maybe sister Iris, in her eloquent statement, it sounded to him as if she was quoting King as saying that all of the money that was spent on that war in Vietnam could have been spent for other purposes that are creative in this country, just like all the money that is being spent on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes.
So those were not statements saying people should not struggle for their independence. They were saying, for one thing, especially coming from King, they were saying let us find more creative ways of struggling. Let us find ways of dealing with the enemy that does not make us copies of the enemy. They were saying, let us use our money to build the poor in this country, and we will not be sending them to destroy the poor in other countries.
So I think it was that kind of line that was coming forward that you were hearing. So was not the opposition to wars for independence or to struggles for independence. But King certainly, like Gandhi, was saying, we must struggle for our human rights, but we must find the most human way to struggle for those human rights that we can. Let us not destroy each other's humanity in the struggle for human rights. Does that help to clarify it a bit more?
AUDIENCE: Right. So Americans shouldn't be concerned about American [INAUDIBLE].
VINCENT HARDING: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Americans should be concerned about-- let's start with King. King took very seriously the fact that he believed-- and here is where this walking the talk comes in. He believed that when we played, our father who art in heaven, that that was serious stuff, that that was not just a prayer, that he was saying he believed he was brother to all other folks and should not be going around killing his brothers and sisters because his president tells him that they are enemies before they are brothers and sisters.
So King would be saying, we should definitely be concerned about the suffering of people everywhere. But we do not take care of suffering by inflicting more suffering. He's always asking us to be creative in how we work out these struggles, recognizing that human beings must struggle for the right. How to struggle is the question. OK? Thank you very much for raising that and for letting me know what you heard.
We have to stop very soon then the chaplain is still going around passing out the mic. So as long as she can do that-- Janet, how long do we have?
JANET: We have one more.
VINCENT HARDING: One more, and that's him? Wonderful. You are it.
AUDIENCE: My name's Vernon Mitchell. I'm a graduate student in the Department of History.
VINCENT HARDING: First name again?
VINCENT HARDING: Vernon Mitchell?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir.
VINCENT HARDING: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Firstly, for coming out. It was a pleasure to see you and to hear you impart your wisdom on us. My question is as a student of history, one that should prepare to take his exams soon, [INAUDIBLE]. My question is--
VINCENT HARDING: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
AUDIENCE: My question is that oftentimes, when I look back through the [INAUDIBLE] history, particularly in the last two centuries, I get disillusioned. And I [INAUDIBLE] current times, I see brothers and sisters of yours who were soldiers in the movement, who seemed at many times want to harvest or want to plough and harvest the fields of self-righteousness and cast a blind eye to the shade you can see in the current context, what do you think is the goal and purpose of new PhDs like myself? You talk about Dr. King leaving grad school. What happens to brothers and sisters like myself who look, again, with that sense of disillusion? [INAUDIBLE] There was a [INAUDIBLE].
So again, my question, what do you see the role of the intellectual in a present day context because Du Bois, yourself, so many others were activist scholars. So how do we make, like I said, transition much more potent so it's not just where you study, and your compassion's really not static or sterile type of environment, but we feel that we are literally a part of the change that has happened, other than [INAUDIBLE]? For instance.
VINCENT HARDING: For instance. Wonderfully put as a fledgling PhD. OK. Vernon, my basic ground, for reasons that I can't go into now but I'd be happy to talk to you some more about, is that for all of us, PhDs, or as Martin used to say, PhDs, no D's, ordinary folks, extraordinary folks, that are basic purpose in this human existence is to help ourselves and others to become more human.
And the PhD may do it in a particular way. The MD may do it in a particular way. The music major may do it in a particular way. The person with no degree may do it in a particular way. But I think that the larger agenda will give us a grounds for asking and answering the question, then. If I am really here to open up the possibilities of my humanity and the humanity of others around me, then what could I be doing as a PhD that would help that?
And obviously, in the case of most PhDs, teaching is something about that, and teaching cannot be confined to classrooms. And teaching, if it is faithful, has to find some way of acting itself out. Doing the kind of study that I was recommending to my brother who would ask about entrenched systems, PhDs have some choice as to what they will focus their research on.
And some research may be more particularly relevant for those who are in trouble. Some research may be more helpful in better salaries. We have to figure out, what are we doing our research for? What are we even in school for? And what is the larger agenda that we see for our lives? Only in the context of that larger agenda can you and I then talk about what should you be doing with this particular piece of expertise that you're gathering here.
And I would be very, very happy to just carry on that conversation, but I wanted to start with you, in you. And I think that you find out that probably some surprising answers they can come forth from now. OK? We start there. Thank you very, very much.
We are the ones. We are the ones. We are the ones.
KEN CLARKE: Thank you again, Dr. Harding, for your profound and encouraging and provocative words this afternoon to us. And thank you, Dorothy, for your wonderful introduction of Dr. Harding, your longtime friend in struggle.
I have just a few brief acknowledgments to make before we formally close I think this afternoon, or this evening, I should say. I want to thank the Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration Committee for their hard work in making this event take place. Those of you who are members of the committee who are here, please stand.
You too, Leon. I especially want to thank, as well-- excuse me-- the staff of Cornell United Religious Work for their support in this year's event in helping to address a number of logistical and other details related to this year's event. I also want to thank George Taber, who is the Community Relations Special Assistant in the Office of Government and Community Relations for having worked out an arrangement with TCAT, our local public transportation system, to provide free transportation to and from this year's King event for the second consecutive year.
I also want to thank our wonderful choir--
--under the direction of Kathy Love-Clark for their wonderful participation in our event this afternoon. And especially I want to acknowledge and finish up the Reverend Rebecca Dolch, who's played a critical role in forging the partnership between Calvary Baptist and St. Paul's United Methodist Church, which she has led 15 years and will be stepping down at the end of the conference year. And we want to acknowledge our leadership for helping to forge this partnership that has been recognized throughout our city and our region. And so thank you, Rebecca.
In the weeks prior to this event, there was a series of programs called Soup and Hope, which were modeled and inspired by Dr. Harding's project, the Veterans of Hope Project, in which he was chronicling the stories of persons across the country were committed to compassionate social change. Four members of our own community, several of whom are here this afternoon, and who are listed on the back of your programs, spoke in powerful and eloquent ways about what gave them the hope to struggle and to work for social change and social transformation in our communities.
That program took place because of the work and the commitment of Reverend Janet Shortall and Mr. Leon Lawrence, who helped to spearhead and to plan and to organize and orchestrate that effort. I want to acknowledge that efforts for this forerunner program that paved the way for this year's King event.
As you exit, you will see archways that have-- and also on this lectern-- notes that we're taking on the Soup and Hope series of persons who talked about-- who wrote, rather, about individuals who inspired them to have hope and gave them a sense of hope in their endeavors. I invite you to read those wonderful remarks that are posted here on the lectern as well as the two archways above.
Finally, there are student volunteers selling commemorative bracelets to raise funds for the national Martin Luther King. Jr., Memorial Project that will be built on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Please be aware of that as you prepare to leave this place. Thank all of you for coming this afternoon, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your evening. Thank you again, Dr. Harding.
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Martin Luther King's legacy of activism and commitment to social justice is reflected in the lives of four Cornell students who discussed their work on behalf of compassionate social change in Sage Chapel Feb. 19.
They were praised by civil rights leader Vincent Harding, who, following their overviews of their work, delivered the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture. The students' example, he said, made him hopeful about the nation's future.