Student offers reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.
On Thursday, January 16, during an evening program in Crimi Auditorium, Yuije Sansone, AU ’14, and other AU students participated in an event celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. In the spirit of the program, Sansone’s remarks are shared below.
Reflection on the Life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I spent the entire weekend trying to figure out what I should speak on in my reflection for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not because I didn’t have anything to say, but I didn’t know where to start. I decided to talk about how Dr. King has affected me personally, hoping that many can relate. I would first like to thank Aurora University for having this event and to Dr. Butters for allowing us the opportunity to participate.
In a ceremony where Dr. King honored the work and life of W.E.B. Du Bois, he stated, “Dr. Du Bois has left us, but he has not died. The spirit of freedom is not buried in the grave of the valiant.” Many years later I am grateful to see that although Dr. King may no longer be with us, that he will forever be remembered. As he remembered and honored W.E.B. Dubois, today we have the opportunity to do the same for him, to acknowledge his contribution and sacrifice.
Dr. King has influenced me in many ways. He has always been one of my favorite historical figures. I’ve always wanted to make an impact and change in this world like he did; I just never knew where to start. The main reason I joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. was because of Dr. King. I watched a PBS documentary titled “A Century of Leadership.” The documentary addressed how Dr. King is one of our most famous and beloved Brothers of Alpha, as well as W.E.B. Dubois, whom he had admired so much. At every march there were thousands of Alpha marching behind him, hundreds of Alphas supporting him in the courtrooms. Through Dr. King, I was inspired to pledge Alpha, and through Alpha, I was inspired to create my organization, My Brothers’ Keeper, which focuses on the mentoring and development of young college men from their freshman year through their senior year, and help in the transition of college graduation to the corporate world. Through both organizations, I commit and dedicate my time and efforts to give back, to build my own foundation of change.
Dr. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I recall a good friend reiterating this quote to me years ago when I was going through one of the lowest points in my life, and it always stuck with me. Dr. King has instilled in me the will to never give up, no matter how hard the struggle gets. It doesn’t matter how bad you start, but how great you finish.
Since transferring here to Aurora University, many may believe that I have always been the person that they see today: a leader, honor student, an outspoken and driven individual–but that has not always been the case. I won’t go into detail of the things I’ve been through in life, or from where I have come, but through God and great figures like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X and their stories, I have become driven by motivation and passion.
There will never be another Martin Luther King Jr., a Nelson Mandela, a Malcolm X, a John F. Kennedy, or a Mahatma Ghandi. That’s like trying to compare anybody in the NBA to Michael Jordan. They are legacies that will forever be held on the highest pedestals. With that said, that doesn’t mean you can’t be the “next you” though, the next Barack Obama, that you can’t make the same impact if not a greater one, as Dr. King and the others did. The only difference is that they genuinely cared more, and were willing to dedicate and give their lives up for something that they believed in.
My roommate and I drive ourselves crazy sometimes sitting in the house, contemplating on the change that we want to make, the sacrifice it would take to see our plans through. We are both heavily guided by our faith. To keep us humble and obedient, we think of the sacrifices that Jesus had made for us; we do the same with Dr. King when it concerns the service of the community and its advocacy for the people, the betterment of mankind. Every time we become content or satisfied with the work we do, we remember the vision of Dr. King’s and the effort he put forth so that we may live in a better society, and it reminds us that no matter how much we have done or continue to do, there is so much more work left.
Dr. King concluded W.E.B. Du Bois’ ceremony with these words: “…let me say that Dr. Du Bois’ greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice. Today we are still challenged to be dissatisfied.”
In that quote, he explains that when we reach a certain point in life, or gain a certain achievement, that we can sometimes become content. He’s challenging us to never be satisfied, to always strive for more. I challenge myself every day, to progress as a person, to do better than I did a month ago, to work harder than I did the year before.
Before I conclude, I want to share an essay that I wrote for a scholarship this year titled, “I Have A Dream.” A coincidence, huh? It was a 150-word essay in which I had to discuss a dream that I have in life.
“I have a dream…similar to the one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—actually, exactly like his. Fifty years later, as we celebrated the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, it made me analyze its impact. Although we have made great strides towards equality amongst everyone, not judging by the color of our skins but the content of our character, we still have a long way to go. With that said, I have a dream, that we as a nation can act as one nation rather than two political parties. I have a dream that we can live right in our walk of life and give back no matter what God we serve. I have a dream that we can look at each other as human beings throughout the world no matter what country we’re from. I dream every day that we can learn to love each other more and hate less, that we can envy each other less and support one another more. I have a dream that the next generation of human beings are the best and continue to become better. I dream a day of peace, no war, a dream that I sometime feel like I will never see, at least that aspect of it. I go to sleep and have nightmares and wake up to the nightmares seeing the world that we live in—countries are always at war, always something sad on the news. I dream that one day, my dream can overshadow this nightmare.”
One of my fraternity brothers, Dr. Leonard McKinnis, posted a Facebook status the other day. He wrote, “One thing is for certain, Dr. King believed the arch of universe bended toward justice not for a few, but for all. To support injustice toward any group is to fundamentally deny the civil rights movement and represents a gross misreading of MLK. Dr. King understood the difference between a “right” and a “rite,” the just and equality, for all. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest martyrs that we have seen. He challenges me to become great, to live with a purpose and unselfishly, and as long as change is needed in this world, to contribute as much as I can. He won his battles through non-violence and peaceful protests. He led marches in which they endured beatings, arrests, being sprayed with fire hoses, being attacked by police dogs, and amongst many other countless inhumane acts, but regardless he always fought back with peace, love, and goodness. Dr. King showed me that if what you’re fighting for and what you believe in is morally right and you’re intentions are good, how can anyone argue against it.
Earlier this week I received an email and it asked me what I wanted everyone to take out of this event. I responded that I hope my fellow students can just take this day to really remember and appreciate both Dr. King and Nelson Mandela. I want the day to encourage them and motivate them to continue striving for success and to always be dissatisfied, because as long as we are dissatisfied and continue to build on the foundation they created, we will have truly honored their lives.