Esteemed neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. reminded a packed Pick-Staiger about sacrifices made during the Civil Rights Movement and how they affect today's world at Northwestern’s midday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration Monday.
The afternoon event was one of several over the course of the day, and also included speeches from President Morton Schapiro, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and ASG President Austin Young.
The sold-out event began, as hundreds filed in, with the Northwestern University Jazz Small Ensemble’s renditions of tunes like "This Little Light of Mine" and "I Want Jesus To Walk With Me."
After Schapiro introduced Lorraine H. Morton, the first African American mayor in Evanston, civil rights advocate, and Northwestern alum, in his welcome comments/speech, current mayor Tisdahl gave anecdotes about her contributions to Evanston politics. The fomer mayor would merely "be herself" at meetings, according to Tisdahl, and it worked; her influence served as a model for how to celebrate King by furthering his ideals, and making a "community of which Dr. King would be proud."
ASG President Young spoke after Tisdahl, paving the way for kenote speaker Carson, a successful American neurosurgeon now working as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, and the first in the world to successfully separate siamese twins conjoined at the back of the head in 1987. Young's introduction outlined of an elementary school project on Carson's achievements which inspired his childhood aspiration of becoming a doctor and taught him about "service, success and leadership."
"As a youngster watching the television, seeing Dr. King and the others suffering, it was really a time of awakening for me," Carson said. "If those people were going to sacrifice that much, I had to take advantage of it."
Carson came from a disadvantaged background and, with the help of a mother who encouraged knowledge and education in her children through reading, made it in the medical community. He said his dream drove him on, and maintained that one of the most important things he has learned being a doctor is to never give up.
He disparaged political correctness, saying "If anyone is offended by what I say, too bad," and stressed some of his governmental concerns, which included advocating for more balance between democrats and republicans and a fight against the growing education gap.
"We cannot allow an environment that pits people against each other," Carson said. "We need to work together to make life good for everybody...No matter what the odds, we are the ones who created this nation...[and] we are the ones who can maintain it as a great nation."
The Alice Millar Chapel Choir and the Northwestern Community Ensemble contributed to the event with several performances. In closing, the two groups performed the traditional South African song "Lilizela" together.
NU's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration 2012 spanned more than three days, including the Martin Luther King Public Interest Job and Internship Fair, the MLK Day of Service(LINK) and various speeches and events Monday.
The annual Candlelight Vigil on Monday evening in Alice Millar Chapel closed the day's celebrations. Along with performances by several NU a capella groups, speaker Tim King, founder of Urban Prep Academies, an all-male Chicago charter high schools with 100 percent college acceptance rates, illustrated how King's vision is still alive today using examples of students from his schools. They fought, never gave up and all ended up getting into college, and so succeeded in the face of adversity.