This is the second in a series of essays about Martin Luther King Jr. written by University staff members in celebration of his lifetime of accomplishments.
I never knew him. I was born 10 years after his last breath. However, there remains in my soul a desire to know him better; to walk as he walked; to profess as he professed.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the masses as well as to individuals — even to his enemies. He professed simple truths of justice and love. He shined light into the dark places of men’s hearts.
To the oppressor, he did not shy away from the call of swift repentance, leading lawmakers to put down the reprehensible drug of gradual change.
To his followers, he lifted up his voice and declared meekness as the path to victory against the violent.
To “all of God’s children,” he rebuked every pretense, every injustice, every non-loving action and every favoritism that divided mankind.
His example is worthy of our imitation.
Doctoral degree in hand, King chose to apply his knowledge to the greater problems of society.
He freely chose to work in the bloodstained, segregated streets of the South.
An embodiment of higher education, he chose not to confine himself within the heavenly, ivy-covered walls of any university.
Instead, he emptied all the knowledge he gained from Morehouse College, the Crozer Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University directly into the community.
From Crozer Theological Seminary, Michael King (his birth name) received his Bachelor of Divinity — a degree scoffed at by many academics.
Nonetheless, it produced, at least in part, a man worthy of our respect.
Carefully study the life of King and get to know his academic and theological excellence.
Review his speeches and scholarly writings. Seek where he merges theology and academic knowledge and you can find how he translates it into simple solutions to solve the world’s most complex social issues.
Listen to audio of King’s sermon “The Drum Major Instinct.” Note the references to Jesus Christ, Alfred Adler, Edward Gibbon, Aristotle, Plato and Albert Einstein.
Something happens as you listen to him speak.
We can use physiological explanations for the tingling, warm sensations and goose bumps, but what explains the other part of your experience?
What academic terms can you use to explain away the deep churning and stirring in your innermost being — a place as touchable as the ocean’s mystical horizon?
What explains the awakening, the clarity to do what is right or the resolve to see justice prevail?
Can academia fully account for those experiences?
Such solutions are seldom taught within classroom walls.
Can today’s universities mold men and women into the likeness of King?
If so, does the academic culture support this work without excluding his study and application of theology?
Let us celebrate the fullness of Dr. King — academic and theologian.
Larry Hill is an adjunct professor in the Graduate College of Social Work and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org