Celebrating Diversity and Overcoming Adversity
By Sam Phillips
People gathered in Kilcawley Center to attend the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Breakfast last Thursday. Students, faculty and members of the community came to listen to speakers reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and how it applies to modern times.
President Tressel said the breakfast is held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and the “tremendous influence on the culture of our country.” He said YSU takes time each year to reflect on the lessons King taught and the sacrifices he made for the country.
William Blake, director of student diversity programs, said it’s important to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day and acknowledge the achievements of people who fight for justice, peace and democracy. He said celebrating King’s contributions to civil rights equality brings students, faculty and community members together.
The keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast was Emma Fraser Pendleton, a life coach and motivational speaker. Blake said her speech was inspiring.
“She has a tremendous background in terms of helping people to understand how to get along, survive and thrive,” Blake said. “That was one of the major messages of Dr. Luther King, so she came to us and she talked to us about some of the techniques that are necessary for people to make change in society as well as survive in difficult situations and turn those … trials … into triumphs.”
During his speech, President Tressel said he was fortunate to work with people that share different experiences and expertise.
“Martin Luther King reminded us that every single person is important. Each and every one of us is insignificant without each and every one of the rest of us,” Tressel said.
Sylvia Imler, executive director of multicultural affairs, spoke about the importance of reflecting on the past and learning from the mistakes of others.
“When we reflect on the past and the things we’ve learned, hopefully it helps us to have a different perspective on things … we identify the stereotypes, bias and assumptions that we have — yes, we all have them,” Imler said.
Tressel said he and his staff are trying to carry on the ideals that King spoke about.
“Our passion and our goal is to create that culture of community, and to not be afraid to talk about the fact that every single person, every single ideal, every single thought that any of us have is to be appreciated, respected, for us to become more aware of one another and what we are all about. And so, it truly is a blessing to have this on our campus, this moment of reflection,” Tressel said.
Student organizations and faculty from various departments in the university were all present at the breakfast.
Chris Gunther was one of the student presenters. He said he was honored to be part of the celebration for the third year in a row.
“I would definitely like to see it … continue. It was a tremendous time and great to be a part of. I hope we can continue to honor Dr. King,” Gunther said.
Tressel said they are working on bringing more students to the breakfast. They are discussing changing the time and allowing students to attend for free.