By Steve Harmic, Penn State DuBois
DUBOIS – As part of the recognition of Black History Month in February, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated at the annual MLK Luncheon at Penn State DuBois on Feb. 6.
Each year, the luncheon serves as a venue for students, faculty and staff to learn about King’s work, and honor his legacy in various ways. This year, King’s commitment to serving his fellow human begins was the focus.
Organized by the Penn State DuBois Office of Student Life, in conjunction with the Office of International and Multicultural Student Services, the 2013 MLK luncheon took a closer look at King’s philosophies on service and on fair and ethical treatment for all people.
An excerpt of a recording of one of King’s lesser known speeches was played to give participants a glimpse inside King’s thoughts on the subject before an open discussion took place. “The Drum Major Instinct” is one of the late reverend’s speeches that he also used as a church sermon.
In the speech, King offers what he called a new definition of greatness; he said it was fine to want to be great and to want to be important, but to be those things meant being a servant to others. King also said that it is ok to want to be first; but to be first in love, moral excellence, and generosity. “He who is greatest among you will be a servant to others,” King said.
“It’s always more interesting to hear from the famous person themselves, rather than listen to someone talk about them,” said International and Multicultural Student Services Coordinator Tharren Thompson as he introduced the audio clip. “Listening to Martin Luther King Jr. give a speech is much more interesting than hearing someone give a speech about him.”
In “The Drum Major Instinct,” King eerily made requests about the content of his own eulogy just months before he would be assassinated. He asked those who outlived him to remember him not for his awards or his education, but to remember that he tried to serve his fellow human beings; that he tried to be a drum major for peace and for justice, without the desire for riches, material items or luxury. Fittingly, Thompson told the students, King’s widow had the speech played at the civil rights leader’s funeral.
In hearing King’s words in his own voice, the students were impacted the way Thompson hoped they would be. Students shared their thoughts on King’s speech and his legacy in the following group discussion.
“It’s inspiring. Everyone worries about material things sometimes,” said student Cindi Weddle, of Curwensville, “He says helping people and being a humanitarian is more important than a big, fancy house on a hill. It makes you think.”
“I think his main mission was to leave an impact for others, not to leave an impact for himself, and to teach others not to just leave an impact for yourself,” said Marissa Brennan of DuBois.