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The Scarlet & Black

Kings campus connection revisited

By Eric Mistry

John Silvanus Wilson, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, delivered a stirring convocation speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr. this past Thursday. His speech, entitled “Martin Luther King and ‘the Beloved Campus’” explored an often-ignored part of King’s life, the time between his legendary “I Have A Dream” speech and his assassination. It was during this time that King would deliver his “Remaining Awake During a Revolution” speech to a Grinnell audience that included Joe Rosenfield ‘25 and Warren Buffet. It was after this speech that Rosenfield ‘25 and Buffet began planning to make Grinnell “financially impregnable”, an attribute of Grinnell that Wilson is trying to help HBCUs adapt.
Wilson’s speech also explored King’s concept of the beloved community, where all live in harmony and proposed the idea of the “beloved campus” a “place where you have character and capital preeminence, the bridge to King’s promised land.” This ideal campus, to which Wilson said Grinnell is “very close” was one of King’s final dreams. King was on Moorehouse’s Board of Trustees, and Wilson believes that he was encouraging them to also create such a “beloved campus.”
Finally, Wilson explored the transformative effects of a college education. King entered college reading at an 8th grade level and left ready to become the eloquent writer and speaker that could lead the Civil Rights Movement. Using Dr. King as an example, Wilson explained the importance of the college experience for a young person,
“The four years that Martin Luther King spent in college as an undergraduate were among the most transformative in his life, that is evident. Students should learn that these are the years that will shape them beyond any career or other experience. This is when change happens and you become the person you will be.”
Wilson ended his speech encouraging the audience to be “One of the ones” that will change the world. In an interview, he also gave his advice for college students today, “Do well and do good. Doing well means you’ve got a job, you’re being productive, etcetera. Doing good means you are a force for good, and that’s important in today’s world.”

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    Bomi MistryJan 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Wow! Reading your article about Wilson’s visit to the Grinnell College campus reaffirmed that my decision to attend Grinnell was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Moreover, seeing what you (Eric) saw fit to summarize about Wilson’s message — and MLK Jr.’s vision — during Wilson’s visit to the Grinnell campus made my heart swell that both you and your older brother made a similarly life-transforming decision regarding which college to attend. Congratulations on a well-written summary of the important advice that Wilson so eloquently imparted to our ” Beloved Campus” community.

    Bomi Mistry, Grinnell Class of 1984