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Keeping the dream alive
MLK speakers: Education, community essential
Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
By Hope Belli Tinney, WSU Today
President Floyd speaks at Thursday's MLK ceremony. (Photo by Shelly Hanks,
WSU Photo Services)
WSU Photo Services)
PULLMAN - Perhaps more than most holidays, celebrations commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day often happen in schools and community centers. Perhaps that’s as it should be.
Accessible and affordable educational opportunities and strong community ties are essential to keeping King’s dream alive, said WSU President Elson S. Floyd, speaking Thursday in the CUB junior ballroom.
Other speakers at the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration included Pullman Mayor and WSU Professor Glenn Johnson and Pullman City Manager John Sherman. Sherman said it was fitting that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated in January because the beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock. Keeping the dream alive is an ongoing struggle, he said. Just because the Civil Rights Act was passed doesn’t mean the work is over.
Education is key to that work, Floyd said during his remarks: “We need to prepare every youngster for the rigor that is required in our colleges and universities.” Unlike in his youth, young people today aren’t just competing with the other students in their classroom; they are competing with young people in classrooms around the world.
“I went down a path as a young man that could have taken me in any direction,” Floyd said. The oldest of four boys growing up in the segregated South, Floyd told the audience that he knew nothing of things many of them take for granted.
He was in the eighth grade before he ever saw a checkbook, in the hands of a boy who was to become a lifelong friend.
“I thought it was amazing that an eighth grader would have a checkbook,” Floyd said, and laughed. His parents paid cash for everything they bought.
Floyd also told a story of this same boy, Billy Spain, inviting him to play putt-putt golf. His usually supportive mother told him, “No, you can’t go.” Floyd said he was surprised his mother would refuse him, so he asked again. She repeated, “No, you can’t go,” and that’s when he understood: “Billy had invited me to a facility where I could not go because I was an African American,” he said.
Floyd went on to attend the Darlington School in Rome, Ga., an all-boys preparatory school, and then to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“As the first in my family to attend college, I have felt it has been my responsibility and my obligation to make sure that I do everything I can to create the same types of opportunities and advantages that I enjoyed,” he said. “We must be vigilant about doing everything we can to keep tuition affordable without diminishing the quality of our education.”
God’s Harmony Gospel Choir performed at the event, as did Nighthawk, a faculty jazz ensemble of Greg Yasinitsky, Dave Hagelganz and Dave Snider.
The 2011 Distinguished Service Awards were presented to the following recipients: Paula Groves Price, associate professor, College of Education; Jeff Guillory, director, Diversity Education Program; Khadra Haro, undergraduate, Speech and Hearing Sciences; Autumn Nicole Jones, undergraduate, human development; and the Association of Pacific and Asian Women. See related story.