The lights in James Madison University's Wilson Hall dimmed and a somber feel came over the auditorium as a spotlight illuminated the still photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the day set aside to honor King, the Center for Multicultural Student Services presented the 25th annual formal program to a full-house of students, faculty, administrators and community members who came to celebrate King's legacy.
"I was extremely proud to see so many students come out to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King," said senior Pat Watral, student body president. "At JMU we aspire to be educated and enlightened citizens who will lead meaningful and productive lives, so Dr. King is a natural role model for us."
Planned by JMU students, the program was the culmination of a week's worth of events centered on the theme "The Evolution of a Dream, A Legacy that Endures." President Linwood Rose started the evening by recalling the role college students played in the civil rights movement. Rose said that it was students who pushed the administration to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at JMU and it is through them he can see King's legacy continuing.
The audience was treated to various forms of dramatic expression in the form of dance, acting and singing from the Contemporary Gospel Singers. A highlight of the evening showcased the winners of the community essay contest. A local elementary, middle and high school student read an excerpt from their winning essay to overwhelming applause.
Dr. Calvin Mackie, the keynote speaker, brought energy and passion to his speech. "Everywhere I go, I challenge, challenge, challenge," said Mackie. A resident of New Orleans, La., Mackie shared the hard road he took to college and the hard work that paid off when he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse College and then earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Mackie challenged the audience to rise up to King's legacy by questioning, working hard and finding their passion. "Dr. King's legacy is the freedom you have to make your dreams come true today," said Mackie.
Mistress of ceremonies, senior communication studies major Jessica Bailey said, "I took away from the program the idea that I need to 'wake up every morning running,' always working toward my goals. The program also reminded me how important it is to never take anything for granted. So many people worked with Dr. King to get us to where we are today and if we ever forget how far we have come and how blessed we are, all of their struggles would have been in vain."
The evening ended with a candle lighting ceremony. Dr. and Mrs. Rose led the procession of community members, administrators, faculty and students representing departments and organizations from across campus.
Watral said it was an honor to participate in the ceremony. "As I placed my candle I reminded myself that participation in this event wouldn't be enough to honor the life of Dr. King," said Watral. "To do that will require living my life with the highest integrity each day. Dr. Mackie was right when he said that Dr. King wasn't killed because he had a dream, he was killed because he woke up everyday and tried to make his dreams come true."