While delivering an address titled "The Dream Revisited: Race, Class, and the Power of Merit," Guinier strayed from the topic, instead bringing to light the recent "President or Preacher" debate, which disputes who should be credited for the Civil Rights Movement, King or President Lyndon Johnson. Guinier argued that although both King and Johnson deserve credit, the real recognition lies within those unnamed masses of protestors and marchers.
"I want to suggest that credit belongs to both, and neither," Guinier said. "[The debate] misses the point. That bill was written by the feet of marchers, by the spirit of protestors."
Read also about Wittenberg's kickoff MLK event, a panel discussion titled "Privilege II: Education as Transformative: Engaging the Work of Lani Guiner," which took place Jan. 16.
"It changed the course of a nation," she said. "[King] was not there when Alabama State Troopers were clubbing non-violent civil rights marchers."
This, according to Guinier, illustrates how the movement had a power of its own. It was not simply fueled by King.
"The message is not of a preacher, a dream," she said. "It's a message of a movement."
Guinier concluded her presentation with advice for the members of the audience.
"I hope that in this audience, each of you will find the chance to exercise leadership," she said. "You don't have to be eloquent in voice, only eloquent in spirit."
The convocation began with a performance by IMANI, Wittenberg's gospel choir, which performed three musical numbers celebrating King's life.
Wittenberg President Mark H. Erickson expressed his excitement concerning Guinier's presence on campus, as well as in the various celebrations that have taken place in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"There's something undeniably special, almost magical, about coming together as a community on days like this, on a day to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.," he said.
Erickson credited the discussions and dialogues surrounding MLK Day as an integral part of "deepening our understanding of the world around us."
Guinier was introduced by Erica Strauss, class of 2008 from Burlington, Ky., president of Concerned Black Students and member of IMANI.
"There are so many universities across the nation that have the day off," Strauss said. "But Witt does things a little differently, and I'm glad we do. If King were here today, I think he would be pleased with the progress we've made."
Strauss then urged the audience not to remain stagnant.
"Challenge yourself to go beyond these chapel walls and make a difference," she said.
Written By: Rachel Morgan '08
Photos By: Robert Gantt
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