What would students tell the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King if he asked them to explain today’s race relations?
That was the question that renowned author and journalist Juan Williams posed during his lecture in front of a packed crowd at Paley Library Monday afternoon.
Williams, who is the author of numerous books and articles on race relations, spoke about the disappointment and confusion that he felt Dr. King would have about many issues in the world today. To emphasize the power that students have on the future, Williams compared Dr. King’s life to that of audience members.
Telling a story of an early, unknown Dr. King, Williams painted a picture of a young man who unknowingly sparked a political movement.
“When he [mounded] the stage that night in that church basement, it [was] not for a one-day bus boycott, but for a bus boycott that is going to last for an entire year, that’s going to energize an entire nation, that galvanizes the Civil Rights Movement,” Williams said.
He said he saw potential leaders in the audience.
“In this room, I suspect are future Dr. Kings, are future Jo Ann Robinsons, are future people who make a difference in their lives,” Williams said. “You are getting an education here that puts you in position to be apart of the American elite.”
Although there are currently prominent black politicians and successful CEO’s, there are many disturbing figures that plague the black community, Williams said.
He said there is about a 50 percent drop-out rate amongst blacks in Philadelphia, and about 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers in America.
Continuing with the scenario he presented of Dr. King being alive and questioning the state of racial justice, Williams said these facts along with the “minstrel show” put on by reality TV star Flavor Flav, in addition to other misrepresentations of black people, are poisoning our society and would make Dr. King cry.
Channeling the appalled character of the late civil rights leader, Williams said, “People may have thought that I was dead, but the people who are really dead are people that don’t stand for anything, that don’t stand up and let their voices be heard.”
Williams said he felt Temple students can make change happen.
“I think the reason I really wanted to take the time to come to Temple was I don’t get the opportunity so often to speak to young people who I think are the ones who are going to make a big difference,” he said. “The people who I think are really the ones who will make a difference are Temple students in the community who do work with schoolteachers, social workers and corporate leaders.”
Williams put the burden of change on students.
“I want you to be the kind of people who are about creating positive social change,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for when I’m looking at you.”
Ashley Truxon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.