Speaker urges students to live MLK Jr.’s vision

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered at an annual program this week as a civil rights leader who encouraged people to believe in their own abilities and, according to an acclaimed key note speaker, helped change the hearts and minds of many Americans.

Dion Jordan
Dion Jordan, a motivational speaker and author from Portland, Ore., shared his reflections on King’s legacy during a Jan. 16 commemorative program held in memory of the slain civil rights leader, who was shot dead by an assassin 40 years ago this spring.

“There has never been nor will there ever be another Martin Luther King Jr. The man was remarkable,” Jordan said. “All leaders after him are compared to him … He was one of the few leaders America has had who made a promise to us and kept it.”

That promise, Jordan said, was to have men and women of all races sit together in the same restaurants, the same theaters, the same public places – a revolutionary idea at a time when segregation divided the country along the color of skin.
“Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world using three simple movements: sitting, standing and walking,” Jordan said. “Those movements changed people’s minds and hearts.”

Jordan, whose talk followed the announcement of the winner of the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Essay Contest, told a crowded Whitley Auditorium that King’s work allows people today to follow their own paths and not allow others to dictate what can and cannot be accomplished.
“We all jumped on his dream because it was such a great dream, but how about yours?” he said. “Start believing in what you can do. Live Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, but also create a legacy of your own.”

Jordan uses himself as an example in many of his presentations. Born pigeon-toed, which would later require corrective surgery involving the purposeful fracture of both legs, he also had a speech impediment. Therapy helped overcome his communication problems, which, according to his web site, taught him “how to speak in a way that does not focus on getting his message out, but rather getting his message to his audience.”

After briefly serving in the U.S. Army, Jordan attended Huston-Tillotson University, graduating with a degree in business administration. He received a master’s degree in education from Claremont College in Claremont, California, and in 1999 he founded Dion Jordan Enterprises to provide professional and personal development programs.

Leo M. LambertElon University President Leo M. Lambert offered opening remarks to the noontime program. He reflected on the fact that the first African-American student graduated Elon in 1969, more than a year after King’s assassination.

“This is a day to ponder how much the world, and Elon, have changed,” Lambert said. “We live in times in which it is likely a major political party will nominate a woman or a black man as its standard bearer this year. Change for the good is happening. But to paraphrase the words of Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep.”

Campus organizers said they have high hopes for students who attend the Wednesday afternoon presentation.

“My hope is that this year’s program will be a vehicle for increasing understanding of the enormous contributions that Dr. King imparted to the nation,” said L’Tanya Richmond, director of the Multicultural Center at Elon. “While we certainly can look to our past to draw strength, I want Jordan’s message to be one of hope and encouragement for what has been accomplished, what still is left to be done, and what can be done, despite obstacles.”

– Katie Parsley with University Relations contributed to this article.