WILKES-BARRE – The message echoed repeatedly during a 50-minute presentation: One of the most fundamental lessons Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified was the need to work as a community to correct social problems.
King's College junior Nicole Caccese recounted her initial fear when she joined other students on a trip to help at a huge center for the homeless and poor, the Andre Hospitality House in Phoenix, Ariz. I learned that no matter what they lacked, they had hope and strength from the people around them, Caccese said during the tribute to the famed civil-rights leader in the Sheehy-Farmer Campus Center on Monday morning.
I have one important observation, Caccese continued. Serving is contagious. If each person did one kind action a day, I firmly believe our world would be a better place.
The theme of the event was Service to Change, and others offered similar testament to the value of King's call for community service.
Wilkes-Barre Latino activist Angel Jirau told the crowd of more than 200 that Dr. King taught us we must come together to overcome our fears. Jirau recounted how King's teachings helped his family ignore the urge for violent responses to prejudice in New York toward his father.
King's College director of the Shoval Center and Service Learning Bill Bolan also talked of his visit to the Andre House, calling it both awe-inspiring and terrifying to see hundreds of homeless and poor lining the streets outside. Bolan said he believes the house works despite that heavy burden because the staff and volunteers unite to provide a caring environment that requires a community, not just an individual.
We cannot help people unless we are part of a community, and that is one of the legacies Martin Luther King gave us as a nation, Bolan said.
At the start of the event, King's College President the Rev. John Ryan recounted how, in 1964, University of Notre Dame President the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh traveled to Chicago to join a massive March with King and ended up linking arms with the civil-rights leader and joining in song.
Notre Dame is run by the same priestly order that established King's College.
Ryan Said a photo was taken that landed in the Smithsonian Institution, where a ceremony was hosted by ABC news correspondent Anne Thompson.
Ryan told the crowd Thompson will be the commencement speaker at King's graduation in May.