On January 29, Albion College hosted its annual MLK Convocation and Community Celebration at the historic Bohm Theatre. This event is an opportunity for Albion College and the community to come together to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s mission and dream of equality for all. Michael Williams (’78) gave the keynote speech titled “At Home in Albion.”
Williams graduated from Albion with a degree in history and political science. His resume and interests are a depiction of his character and desire to give back to individuals in his community. The NAACP awarded Williams the Man of the Year Award while he was attending Albion. He continued to show a commitment to both the city of Albion and Albion College long after he graduated. Williams served two consecutive terms as mayor in 1994 and 1996. Additionally, Williams currently serves on the Albion College Board of Trustees. Williams chose a profession in social work and is currently the CEO of Orchards Children’s Services.
The Albion College Concert Choir opened the event, singing “Shed a Little Light” composed by James Taylor and Greg Jasperse. Patrick McLean, the director of the Ford Institute for Public Policy and Community Service, welcomed the audience and thanked the sponsors of the event. President Ditzler followed McLean with opening remarks, focusing on the importance of equality and community.
“Home. You know, it’s good to be home,” Williams said as he took the stand.
Williams opened his speech with a story. A neighbor sent a man a text message apologizing for stealing his wife. He went and killed his neighbor out of anger only to get home and see that his neighbor had texted him again about his phone autocorrecting Wi-Fi to wife. Williams then asked the audience how many times they have acted out of anger?
He followed his story by honoring many individuals who took a stand for equality, like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. He even thanked Campus Security for placing him on social probation for being in his friend’s room after 10 p.m., because, “If you don’t give people credit for what they did for you, you’ll only give them credit for the bad they did to you.”
Williams encouraged the audience to take accountability for the challenges the Albion community is facing by having them repeat “I can do something about that” after each sentence he said.
Williams concluded his speech by asking everyone to stand up.
“Look around. Look at a face you didn’t know. Shake a hand you don’t know… This community has sat down too long. Unless you stand up you can’t move forward. Albion, tonight, make that commitment.”
He encouraged Albion to “plug into” the resources it has the same way you would plug your phone into a charger if your battery were running low. Williams told the audience to plug into the church, Marshall and the college because once the battery is charged, they will no longer have to complain. They will start receiving the things they want.
Williams’ speech ended with a standing ovation from the audience. Individuals from the college and the community felt inspired by his message.
Olivia Angott, a senior from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, said, “The MLK Convocation is an extraordinary opportunity for the Albion community and college to come together to celebrate our diverse community. Having the opportunity to bring the town and college together for an event is important because we rely on each other for success. We all want what’s best for Albion so being able to celebrate our success and challenges together as a community is important.”
Photo by Morgan Garmo