Speaker shares message of King

Nicole Jones

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was revived Thursday, Jan. 13 thanks to a presentation by Dr. Henry Durand. Durand’s presentation was both of the life of Dr. King and the message behind his life.

“Martin Luther King Day should not be just a day off, or even necessarily a day of celebration,” Durand said. “It should be a day of deep reflection and meditation on the values that King stood for.”

Durand himself was highly influenced by the life and the message of Dr. King. He recalls King saying things like “Stand straight. Stand proud. A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”

Durand said that neither of his parents had more than a sixth grade education, but “King’s words resonated with them and they resonated with me.”

When King was killed in 1969, Durand became the first president of the Black Student Union at Denison University. He says that frequently the Union made the mistake that many people do.

“We tended to reduce King’s essence to ‘I have a dream’. We overlooked his growth period,” Durand said.

King’s growth period included his moving on in his speeches towards economics, mainly education and ending housing discrimination. He stayed true and never wavered in his Christian ethics and non-violent protest.

“If Dr. King was alive today, he would be 76 years old, and he would support the search for equal opportunity education,” said Durand. “Some mistake the meaning of equal opportunity education. It means that every student should have the opportunity to maximize their education regardless of their ability to pay.”

At times, Durand travels and speaks to high school students about continuing their educations, and will ask them what they want to be when they grow up. “They say that they want to be a basketball player, because they see that as a way to riches. Education is the way.”

Durand says that some are waiting to hit the lottery.

“You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning twice than you do of hitting the lottery,” Durand said.

Durand then went on to urge students in the audience to continue with their educations and to graduate.

“Students are obligated to maximize their education opportunities. It makes a difference of about $20,000 per year. Graduate schools add about another $20,000 on average.

“Those of you who don’t attain your bachelor’s degree, you’re robbing your community,” Durand said, “It’s a way to give back.”

Durand also urged students to help each other. “Students now have a number of serious responsibilities. You need to mentor the new and incoming students. It is difficult to make the adjustment from high school culture to college culture; and that’s what it is, a different culture. Help students understand.

“This is college. We expect you to think.”

Dr. Durand’s lecture was titled “Reviving the Dream: Educational Equity as a 21st Century Imperative.”

Dr. Henry J. Durand is the associate vice provost for undergraduate education and is the executive director for the Center for Academic Development

Services (CADS) at the State University of New York at Buffalo.