Over the first few weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, his campaign for change has evolved into a sustained era of responsibility. The Rev. Dr. John Walker exemplified that notion of accountability perfectly in his keynote speech in the capstone event of the Colleges’ week-long celebration recognizing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of President Obama. From the Friendship Church in Henrietta, N.Y., Walker recalled his experiences with the Civil Rights Movement, contextualizing the election and inauguration of Barack Obama within the movement, and reflecting on the power of youth in action.
To reflect and celebrate the life of King in the context of Obama’s January Inauguration, Hobart and William Smith Colleges sponsored an MLK Week titled, “Youth in Action: Awakening the Dream.” From Monday, Jan. 19 through Thursday, Jan. 22, the Colleges exemplified the importance of youth activism by hosting a number of events for students, faculty, staff and community members to celebrate diversity together, contextualize the significance of the new president, and make a difference in the community through service work.
“Youth in Action is meant to remind young people at HWS and in the community about the role played by so many young citizens during the Civil Rights Movement,” says Intercultural Affairs Director Alejandra Molina. “Our hope is that the HWS community, especially its students, will continue to recognize MLK Day and the importance of service not only on one day but for the semester, if not as an ongoing goal.”
Walker spoke about young people’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement and about his own role in Rochester’s political events of the 1960s (he was a student at the Rochester Divinity School during that time), creating a very powerful example for the students in the audience. Walker also addressed issues affecting children, in particular children living in poverty. This echoed Dr. King’s concern, toward the end of his life, for the need to look at the wealth disparities in our country and how they affected our citizens.
“Students at Hobart and William Smith are deeply invested in social and political causes all year long,” explains President Mark D. Gearan. “The celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of Barack Obama gives us a special opportunity to celebrate and remember the history that has led us here.”