The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Awake in a dream world

Just over half a century ago, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in old Darby Gymnasium near the corner of Eighth Avenue and Park Street in Grinnell, IA. Some 800 miles away from the terror and strife of the 1960s race wars, former students of Grinnell College sat in awe as a Baptist preacher, a globally recognized Civil Rights activist and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, stood in front of them to advocate for his vision of world peace and nonviolent compromise.

Fifty years later, his message resonated once again through the halls of Grinnell College. Missing only his physical presence, students, professors and community members gathered in nearly the same geographical location to become inspired by the wise words of Dr. King. Closed eyes, peaceful smiles and echoing silence among some 100 people for 43 minutes: it is clear that his voice has not lost any of its captivity, nor his morals any of their certitude. In a world that has become exponentially more congested and complex, how has his simple message stayed so close to the hearts of humans?

For Grinnellians, this is a pretty easy answer. King’s idea of staying awake through a revolution is central to our college mission, and so it is no surprise that JRC 101 was filled to capacity just to hear his voice. But, how does that explain the rest of the world? The annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day? How was he so successful in changing the perceptions and attitudes of people around the globe? 

This is like asking what separates Picasso’s finest works from my Pre-K doodles. The answer may not be easy to elaborate and expound upon, but it’s clear that MLK had a different take on the world around him than most living in Civil Rights Era America. He strove not to achieve what was in his own self-interest, but to promote what was in the self-interest of everyone. He did not complain of the Black man’s plight. Instead, he looked to eradicate hatred, the human plight. Black or white, he reminded everyone of the invisible importance of the “within,” and how it must always triumph over the “without.” Today, we must be reminded of the same thing. When we live in selfishness and anger towards one another, we live in a nightmare. On Oct. 28, 1967, fewer than four months before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. showed Grinnell a better way, his dream of a world where all can cooperate. “He who loves has discovered the key that unlocks the door to ultimate reality. Love must have the final word.”

— Thomas Hexter ’21

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