Kaskaskia College held its thirteenth annual celebration of the life and ideals of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Tuesday, January 21st with a fellowship breakfast followed by a program in the Jane Knight Auditorium.
The program began with words of welcome from this year’s emcee, Chef Robert Rhymes of the Culinary Arts Program at KC. Chef Rhymes introduced KC student Katelyn Morris, who sang a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, followed by KC student Petra Albert, who lead the gathering in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Reverend Tommy Henegar gave the invocation.
In keeping with tradition at KC, a video of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was shown, and its message set the tone for the program to follow.
Dr. James Underwood, President of Kaskaskia College, welcomed the attendees and reinforced the message that “At KC, Everyone is Someone.” Dr. Underwood spoke of the Core Values adopted by KC: Honesty, Respect, Fairness, Compassion and Responsibility, and how everyone at the College continually strives to apply these principals in every interaction with students, the public, and one another.
Board Chairman Mr. Bill Hawley spoke of the urgency for those who witnessed the troubled times of the Civil Rights Movement of Dr. King to pass on those lessons to today’s youth. “It was a volatile time in the history of the United States,” Mr. Hawley said, “It is imperative that we teach our students to recognize that the struggle continues and to learn not to tolerate injustice.”
Lisa Atkins, Director of Adult Education and Literacy for KC, introduced the keynote speaker for the program, Dr. Clara Coleman Rouse. Ms. Atkins described Dr. Rouse, who, among many other accomplishments, served as a teacher and principal in Centralia City Schools from 1967 until 1996, as “a woman of character, a woman of strength, who, when told that she could not aspire to greatness, responded with ‘Oh yes I can!’” She was also a former KC student and adjunct instructor in Business for the College.
Dr. Rouse, a Centralia native who moved to California some years ago, began by saying that she appreciated having some snow for her visit, although she was glad it was not a repeat of the blizzard from a few weeks ago.
Her address was on the topic of “The Difference.” Quoting from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, she illustrated how, by outlining his dream of the future, Dr. King was able to change the landscape of race relations in America and set the tone for the reforms that followed. Dr. King was more than someone who made a difference; by his actions as well as his inspired words, he came to be seen as the one person most responsible for the Civil Rights Movement. He was the difference.
Dr. Rouse illustrated her point in another way with a story of her great nephew Kyle, who was a great football player in high school. When Kyle broke his hands and was unable to play, he served as an inspiration for his team by cheering them from the sidelines. His enthusiasm made a difference for the team. But it was when Kyle worked hard to overcome his injuries, and returned to the field to score a touchdown that he became himself the difference.
Dr. Rouse followed this creed herself. In Centralia, she and her sisters began a program to be the difference for young women in the community, an effort that is continuing today. In California, she serves as a mentor in the Phoenix program in which troubled students are inspired to rise from the ashes of poor behavior and performance to become successful in the classroom and beyond.
She said that Dr. King’s most important question is “What are you doing for others?” Her response is that sometimes it’s not enough to cheer from the sidelines hoping to make a difference; “Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get into the game to be the difference.”