MLK’s Legacy, Obama’s Inauguration Observed at UH

The University of Houston's faculty, staff and students will gather Tuesday at a campuswide observance of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. The event, "The Evolution of a Dream:  Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University Center.

The doors will open for members of the campus community at 9:30 a.m. The inauguration festivities being held in Washington, D.C., will be simulcast, and videotaped messages from members of the UH faculty and community leaders will be played.

 "The general plan is to commemorate the day with a viewing of the inauguration.  We believed this to be an appropriate demonstration of `The Dream Realized' or `The Dream in Action.'  We also felt that it would be very symbolic to celebrate the occasion as a campus community and family representing such a diverse population," said Dorita Hatchett, development director and event organizer.

Light refreshments will be available, and the campus bookstore will have a display of items for sale representing commemorative works with King as the subject, Hatchett said.

While the spring semester also begins Tuesday, organizers said they anticipate faculty members will encourage student participation.

"The event will occur on the first day of classes, and students are expected to attend their scheduled courses and laboratories," interim Provost Jerald Strickland said. "In between classes, we hope faculty, staff and students will stop by this important observance and inauguration to participate in the simulcast event."

Dr. Ira Colby, dean of the Graduate College of Social Work, who will provide the closing remarks, said
King's legacy is a gift to everyone that must be protected and defended, while cherished for generations to come.

"The life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives us hope of the possible and clearly demonstrates that truth and justice will prevail," Colby said.

The federal MLK holiday was first observed in 1986. Congress in 1994 designated it as a national day of service and created a federal agency to oversee it. The service day is tied to King's birthday, Jan. 15, and inspired by his words that "everybody can be great because anybody can serve."

With the holiday honoring the slain civil rights activist falling the day before Obama's inauguration, the president-elect has encouraged widespread volunteer initiatives across the country.

"If Dr. King were living Jan. 15, 2009, he would have been 80 years old.  The remarkable transformation of our universe - from the southern United States to the Union of South Africa - is not due to his political power or financial weight, but to his stubborn, consistent philosophy of challenging the haves on behalf of the have-nots.  And he did not expect fees or marketing visibility or election to public office - he lived and died as a servant of God," said the Rev. William A. Lawson, UH community scholar-in-residence and pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

"The only title he ever asked for was that of a `drum major for justice.'  Because of his life, his teachings of change through nonviolence, the personal example of sacrifice for moral principles, we now have opportunities he could never have taken advantage of, even an African-American president, inaugurated the day after the legal holiday recognizing his 80th birthday.  Servants sometimes contribute much more than masters," Lawson, founder of the Institute for Peace and Prosperity, said.

Over the years, UH has had numerous events in the tradition of celebrating the life of King involving intellectuals, theologians, community participants, students, faculty, staff and other civic-minded individuals, said James Anderson, executive associate to the chancellor and president.  

"One of the great commonalities of these individuals has been their willingness to be of service to their communities through reflections of Dr. King's philosophy on human rights, civil activism and world peace," said. "It is my hope that students, faculty and others, in their own way, will continue to celebrate this day and many others by pledging to be ‘of service' and ‘engaged' in their communities in the King tradition."

WHAT: The Evolution of a Dream: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
WHY: To observe the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
WHEN: Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday
WHO: University of Houston faculty, staff and students
WHERE: University of Houston, University Center, Entrance 1

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities.  UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.  

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