The University Center’s grand-room was filled with an ambience of open-mindedness, anticipation and power. As students, guests, faculty and staff patiently waited for the arrival of the main attraction, WCU’s inspirational choir delivered a liberating song, “How Excellent is Thy Name”- to serve as an invigorating beginning for what was to come.
On Wednesday, January 21, 2009, Western Carolina University’s Chancellor, Dr. John W. Bardo, hosted a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by presenting a guest speaker-Dr. Julianne Malveaux, who is the President of Bennett College for women, located in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Dr. Malveaux is an economist, author and commentator. She delivers within her public discussions’ the powerful rhetoric of the ever-changing public opinion-by addressing issues such as race, culture, and gender, to ultimately encompass their affects on our current economy.
Beginning with our country’s most interesting topic-President Barack Obama-and the progress being made through equal opportunity, Malveaux asked the audience, “Is Barack Obama the manifestation of Dr. King?” She later emphasizes the parallels between Obama’s campaign and Dr. King’s overall dream- which is to create change through luck, hope, faith, and God. She reinstates that “we [African-Americans] will shake your hand if you unclench your fist.”
Although Malveaux’s main intention was to celebrate the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., she also touched base on our current economical turmoil. “What about ordinary lives? It’s harder and harder for citizens to receive food stamps…and [with] our recent 138 billion dollar bailout for bankers, [it] certainly doesn’t add to our country’s prosperity…ordinary is where the story is told.” With poverty also being a prominent issue, Malveaux point outs Dr. King’s stance on poverty-in which he considers cannibalism.
Thus far, “the only political candidate to mention poverty was John Edwards,” states Malveaux. “We celebrate the dream…which is the eradication of poverty. We can fight poverty in three ways: education of culture, peace, and the idea of three meals a day.” She doesn’t mark poverty solely existing in America, but also reiterates that every country has their problems, and that “economic justice…can be found through the middle class.” This account of history delivered to the audience an appeal that many will not forget, “we have to talk about this dream…do something for others…[and] transcend history.”
This Presidential election sparked an emphasis of race and gender. Dr. Malveaux states that, “it’s not about race, but economics.” Upon entering the grand-room, volunteers associated with the program handed out pamphlets on Dr. Malveaux’s history and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Call to Move from The Dream to the Hard Work of Real Reform. Despite leaving the celebration with powerful words, pamphlets, and photos, students ultimately were left with an ultimatum-to enlighten their perspective of being a mindful and empowered individual.