Remembering Dr. Marting Luther King Jr.

Christopher Newport University puts on a special event in remembrance of a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Newport News.

Martin Luther King Jr. contributed a lot to the America’s history and was a precedent-setting man for American civil rights. In addition to his endless advocating for equal rights, he was an advocate for protesting in a non-violent way. Most certainly his most notable speech was “I Have A Dream”. The day is in honor of MLK Jr. and is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year. This year it lands on January 20th. In previous years, the university has not taken the day off in honor of him. Due to the uproar of the students, President Trible decided to pause classes from 3PM-6PM and hold an event in his memory. The event included a musical presentation from the Chamber Choir, Ahmed Elzamzami, the winner of the student oratorical contest, a presentation by Alumni Society President, Cynthia Allen-Whyte, and lastly, the Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan, who is also a member of the university’s Board of Visitors and chairs the university’s Council on Diversity & Inclusion. The event took placed on the great lawn and was led by our very own President. To gather more information and reasoning on the pause of classes and not the whole day off, I reached out to the Chief Communication Officer, Jim Hanchett.

I started off the interview with asking why the university does not take the day off for the federal holiday, he answered: “For the first time, classes are not meeting for three hours on MLK Day. We believe the observance only has meaning if there is meaningful participation, either in university-sponsored events or in individual pursuits. As President Trible has said, this holiday will have more meaning for all of us if we, as a community, join together to learn, listen, serve and reflect.” Naturally, I asked if the decision was based off any negative feedback from last year’s decision to continue with classes. Hanchett’s answer was one that you would not expect but reassuring: “We didn’t receive a lot of backlash. Instead, a group of students raised some questions and concerns and the President immediately reached out to them, inviting their comments and insights. Multiple meetings occurred throughout the semester, which helped us to create the university celebration presented last year and expanded this year.” An interesting twist of the story, but it reassures students that this was a university decision and was not a product of backlash. 

There is Presidential Leadership Program speaker tonight. Justice John Charles Thomas is coming to speak to the PLP students as one of the mandatory speakers for the semesters. I asked Hanchett if Mr. Thomas would discuss MLK Day with the students. He let me know that he was under the understanding that issues surrounding MLK Jr. would be a part of the speech tonight. Lastly, I asked a question a lot of us have: “What should we expect next year regarding MLK Jr. Day and other major holidays that other universities take off for?” Hanchett answered in a logical way “Christopher Newport operates on a tighter schedule than some universities due to a desire to have an academic year that doesn’t begin in early August or stretch through May, while still permitting a short fall break, a full holiday break and a full spring break. This also gives students an advantage in seeking internship opportunities and study abroad options as well as more time with family and friends over the winter holidays. That calendar has always proved popular with students and faculty.”

~Caitlyn Bauske, Staff Writer~

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