In 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. received his doctorate from Boston University’s School of Theology.
Fifty-six years later, the BU community gathered for a service at Marsh Plaza and commemoration at George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Hall on Monday to celebrate and discuss the legacy that King left at BU.
About 300 students and faculty members attended the event titled “Blueprint for a Greater Generation.”
“Today we are not here to bury Martin Luther King,” said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore. “We’re here to say he’s got a legacy, and he’s got a legacy that might be useful for our generation.”
Elmore challenged the speakers to answer questions about Martin Luther King Jr.’s relevance today and asked them where today’s voices of social justice will be found.
Speakers said that although today’s problems are no longer black and white, the current generation has the potential to become great.
“I believe my generation will speak for itself because they have something to say,” said College of Arts and Sciences senior Sarah Sullivan, a student speaker. “It is not who speaks for this generation, it is who will listen.”
Though the examples set by King cannot be replicated, his legacy still lives on, said School of Theology Dean Imani-Sheila Newsome . “What is sacred will bring us together today,” she said. “Our humanity is the sacred text of our very being. No matter what race or religion, humanity unites us and will call for social justice from the core of our being.”
School of Education Dean Hardin Coleman said today’s generation should be measured by the wellbeing of the community.
“There is always need for reform,” he said. “We need to go out to bring others of like minds to create communities of care, a vision that will lead to a change.”
CAS student speaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, emphasized the relentless way King approached bridging the racial gap.
“How can we be great?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “The first step is a choice. King made a conscious decision. Ask yourself, today, how will you be great? In this moment, how am I great?”
Elmore stressed the importance of music in King’s life, saying it added life to his movement, and the program featured musical interludes by College of Fine Arts student Joshua Reynolds and BU’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir.
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Victor Coelho said the power of music and the idea of change have a way of bolstering a community by holding it together.
CAS freshman Sharjil Hannan said she attended the commemoration because that as an international student, she wanted to learn about the American perspective of King.
“Coming from Bangladesh, I know him as a great inspiration whose struggle sent vibes throughout the world,” Hannan said.
CAS senior Kyle Trotman said he commended the program for how it solidified King’s message to become relevant today.
“King is an example of someone who actually put his words into action,” Trotman said.