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Student reflects on MLK events, says dreams can spur positive action

By Contributing Writer on January 30, 2013
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Students from the Poetically Minded group read from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at Memorial Chapel.

(Marilyn Hernandez-Stopp ’14 offers her personal reflections on Colgate’s Martin Luther King Jr. events.)

What do a refugee from Bosnia, a North-Korean prison-escapee, a young reverend fighting for civil rights in America, and a Colgate University student have in common?

Spanning across different locations, time-periods, and personal situations, they share one connecting thread — dreams. They all have hopes for the future. They all have aspirations. They all have goals. And they all believe that whatever personal hardships, or other struggles they face, will be overcome.

That realization struck me after attending various events on campus in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, and hearing incredible stories of resilience and strength in the face of adversity. Every person in this world imagines something better for himself or herself. The existence of dreams gives us hope, and it’s that very hope that pushes us along in times of difficulty. As the saying goes, there is always tomorrow. But it’s not just the expectation of another day that makes dreams so vital. Ideas stem from dreams. Goals stem from dreams. Action stems from dreams.

Andrea Finley '13

Andrea Finley ’13 delivers her remarks at the opening ceremony of MLK Week. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Nor is what we envision in our dreams selfish. In order to help ourselves, we must help others. As Van Jones, author of Rebuild the Dream, and founder of a nonprofit of the same name dedicated to social justice, said in his keynote address, “We have to have liberty, and justice, and for all.” Jones also founded Green For All, a national organization working to get green jobs to disadvantaged communities.

Throughout the week’s observances, it felt clear that 2013 would be a year different from the rest. At the opening ceremony, Andrea Finley ’12, the first student ever asked to give opening remarks, shared her sense of urgency that we must critically analyze our surroundings, even though the knowledge we gain may make us uncomfortable: “I challenge us to make mistakes, but to learn from them, that we would not repeat the vicious cycle of normalcy that has led us to complacency.”

As Finley, a well-known student advocate on campus, continues her journey and graduates this semester, the rest of us will be left to contemplate her words.

The vision is not limited solely to the Colgate community, either. Thomas Cruz-Soto, associate dean of multicultural affairs and director of the ALANA Cultural Center, noted, “The world is becoming more globalized and diverse every day. As future American leaders, we have to move from tolerance … and learn to appreciate the differences that make us unique.”

A variety of campus organizations and departments collaborated to bring to the table myriad perspectives, ranging from a workshop about the struggle of undocumented youth in America, to a brown bag discussion about refugee education, to a presentation by ALANA student ambassadors to local schoolchildren, to an afternoon of community service. The challenge is upon us to take action on the path paved by Martin Luther King Jr. more than 40 years ago.

Van Jones,  president and cofounder of Rebuild the Dream, speaks at Memorial Chapel. (Photo by

Van Jones, president and cofounder of Rebuild the Dream, speaks at Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Janna Minehart ’13)

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