For 30 years, Oregon State University faculty, staff, students and community members have gathered at the university to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, the annual MLK Peace Breakfast was packed with 300 guests despite a snowy, icy commute.
Emceed by students Anderson DuBoise III and Agustin Vega-Peters, the event honored the achievements of several OSU staff members who have done extraordinary work in the areas of social justice and diversity, and celebrated the memory of King with a rousing call to action by OSU Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, Robert Thompson. Thompson talked about the difficulties King faced as a truth-seeker and a man committed to speaking out against social ills, including his opposition of the Vietnam War and the cost to King’s reputation.
President Ed Ray spoke about the theme of this year’s MLK tribute, “Choose in this Crucial Moment.”
“Justice, racial equality, segregation, educational opportunity, economic fairness, poverty, war, respect for our fellow humans – these issues concern each of us and many Americans as we look at the directions we are taking as a nation; at the appalling way we too often treat each other; at the disrespect we have for our leaders and our peers and even for ourselves,” Ray said.
Ray said that we should follow King’s example when faced with the difficult path ahead.
“We need, all of us, to look for the crucial moments when we can consider our privileges and prejudices and elect, as Dr. King did, to do the tough, right thing because our conscience gives us no choice,” Ray said.
Two OSU staff members were honored during the event. Eric Hansen, associate director of University Housing and Dining Services, received the Phyllis S. Lee Award for his tireless work in making OSU a more inclusive environment. Jodi Nelson, executive assistant to the Vice Provost, was honored with the Frances Dancy Hooks Award for her work promoting cultural awareness, diversity and social justice at OSU and in the greater Corvallis community.
Performances by the OSU a cappella group Outspoken and a poem recitation by emcee Anderson DuBoise III completed the event.