Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Wednesday evening, Swarthmore’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day culminated in a keynote address by George Lakey, the Lang Visiting Professor of Social Issues. Since his involvement in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Lakey has devoted his life to bringing about social change through nonviolent means. Darryl Smaw, the Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs, opened the program with singing and piano music, and Pat James of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility introduced the speaker.
Although Lakey has been in a room with King “only once,” he knew and worked with King’s associates. Lakey’s work now takes him all over the world, but he still looks to Dr. King’s life and teachings for guidance. In trying situations he has encountered as an activist, “I found it extremely useful … to imagine Dr. King nearby, dialoguing with me.”
Lakey organized his talk around “six of the kinds of questions that come up for activists.” These questions included conflicts such as “inner voice versus the advice of others,” “structural change versus personal change,” and “breadth of issues.” For each of these topics, Lakey cited examples from Dr. King’s work and experience. Lakey followed his address with an engaging question-and-answer session, and Darryl Smaw completed the evening by accompanying the audience in a rendition of the Civil Rights song “Oh, Freedom.”