Martin Luther King III, former chair of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and the eldest son of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., will deliver this year’s convocation address.
Jon Bellante ’06, chair of the convocation selection committee, made the official announcement in a press release yesterday.
“We are very thrilled with the type of message that [King] will be giving,” Bellante said. “We wanted to be delivering a message that would inspire our class towards the future. [King is] all about inclusiveness, equality and tolerance of all people.”
The speaker received unanimous approval from the convocation selection committee, according to Bellante. That committee, which has been meeting to discuss convocation speakers since April 2005, is comprised of graduating senior members of the Student Assembly, the class council, graduating members of the Cornell University Programming Board executive committee and a few other students selected by Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services and Kent Hubbell, dean of students.
Bellante said the committee that chose King was representative of the entire student body. “We got as much of a cross-campus group as we could,” he said.
King, who attended Morehouse College, has spent the last 20 years continuing to preach his parents’ message of attaining justice and equality for all citizens through nonviolent conflict resolution.
Currently the president and chief executive officer of the King Center in Atlanta, King has focused on the eradication of racial profiling and violence and improving education and social opportunities for children across the country.
In 1986, King was elected to be an at-large representative of over 700,000 residents in Fulton County, Ga. He worked as a member of the Board of Commissioners to regulate minority business participation in public contracting, create ethics legislation and improve the county’s natural water resources.
In 1997, King was unanimously voted into office as president of the SCLC, an organization his father helped found in 1957. He took office on the anniversary of his father’s birth, Jan. 15, 1998, and served until Dec. 1, 2003.
While leading the SCLC, King helped organize a march on Washington in August 2000 to protest police brutality and racial profiling. King also oversaw the “Stop the Killing – End the Violence” campaign, which included a hugely successful gun buy-back program. King worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to advise housing authorities on how to conduct buy-backs; the SCLC has collected over 10,000 guns to date.
King also works on a number of youth programs aimed at education and personal development of underprivileged and African-American children. His “King Summer Intern Program” provides employment for high school students and “Hoops for Health” is a charity basketball game that raises awareness about newborns who suffer from the effects of substance abuse. King’s other major youth program is “A Call to Manhood,” an annual event that unites young African-American males with positive adult role models.
King also recently led the charge to remove the offensive “Stars and Bars” flag from his home state of Georgia. This came after his successful campaign to move the SCLC annual convention from South Carolina because of that state’s continued use of the Confederate flag.
Although King has spoken at numerous colleges and has given baccalaureate addresses before, this will be his first commencement address at a major university.
Recent convocation speakers have included actor Danny Glover, former President William Jefferson Clinton and Gen. Wesley Clark.
King will speak in front of graduates and their families on May 27 in Barton Hall. Tickets will be available beginning April 3 on a first-come-first-serve basis; each graduate is allowed to invite up to two guests. The University commencement ceremony will take place the following day in Schoellkopf Field.
Archived article by Melissa Korn
Sun Senior Editor