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Remembering the spirit of Dr. King

PROCTORVILLE — On a hot August afternoon in 1963 almost a half-million people swamped the National Mall in Washington, D.C. stretching up in lines four or five across to the Lincoln Memorial to hear one man speak.

That man was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who electrified those masses that day at the historic March on Washington with his “I Have a Dream” speech and its message of racial equality during the height of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

Those words of King soared again Tuesday morning as J.D. Crockrel read that famous plea during a brunch at Ohio University-Proctorville Center as the kickoff of OUS’s Martin Luther King celebrations.

“America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds,’” Crockrel said as he quoted King. “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Crockrel’s performance of the 16-minute call to arms for racial fairness was followed with remarks from Robert Pleasant, director of student services at the OUS campuses.

“We are making history with the Dr. Martin Luther King brunch and excited with the opportunity,” Pleasant told the audience of students and community members. “We tend to think of him as in the realm of race. Dr. King was so much more.

He was about justice for all. I don’t want us to get caught up in race. This holiday is for all people. Dr. King was a pioneer. His spirit lives on in those wanting a more peaceful, just world, a world where we answer the question: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

In keeping with the theme of service to others was the keynote speech by Rebecca Dingus, research assistant for the Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute and for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University.

Dingus was part of the Young Professionals, an organization that is part of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. This Christmas the Young Professionals took over at the eleventh hour the county’s Secret Santa program that provides gifts for needy children.

Dingus detailed the group’s efforts starting in early November where the fledgling organization had only “six members, zero money and six weeks to figure out how to supply Christmas to the neediest children in the county.”

But by the time Christmas Eve was nearing the Young Professionals had amassed funds and donations to buy coats, shoes, gloves, boots, bikes and gifts for 411 children.

Donations would range from $1,000 or $500 from businesses to a $10 bill stuffed in an envelope.

“It became evident how much people in our community wanted to help,” Dingus said.

She told about one couple who came to the Young Professionals embarrassed that they couldn’t provide for their three children this year. They were given three shopping carts of gifts.

“They had tears in their eyes,” Dingus said. “Their children would not be disappointed at Christmas.”

As she exhorted the audience of mainly college students to become more active in their community, she said, “Each one of us has the ability to help one another. Each day we are all presented with opportunities to show compassion.”