Hand-in-hand, Oberlin residents tackled the bitter cold Monday and rededicate themselves to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
It was 10 degrees outside with a negative eight wind chill, according to the National Weather Service — but that did not stop the nearly 80 people who bundled up and huddled together near the King Park monument on East Vine and South Pleasant streets.
“I’m happy to welcome you all here to remember and celebrate the life of Dr. King and all those who worked and struggled with him… to rededicate ourselves to his work and the work that’s not yet finished,” said David Synder of the Oberlin Friends (Quakers).
King’s first visit to Oberlin was 59 years ago in February 1957. He received an honorary degree from Oberlin College in 1965 and that was the last time he spoke in town before dying in 1968.
Oberlin Schools superintendent David Hall said he remembers growing up in Cincinnati and hearing about famous African Americans in history such as Harriet Tubman and King.
“It was not until seventh grade when I actually understood their great accomplishments,” he said. That’s when Hall’s teacher helped him understand their roles in history.
The Oberlin superintendent remembers seeing a picture of King and quotes by famous African Americans on the walls. His favorite King quote is, “The quality, not the longevitiy, of one’s life is what is important.”
“I’ve viewed this quote often to remind me the importance of creating a quality of life myself,” he said.
Over the years, his definition of “quality of life” has changed.
“At 13, to have a quality of life meant remembering Michael Jackson songs, getting my afro together, and trying to moonwalk,” Hall said. “At 18, it meant playing football and memorizing Whitesnake songs. And at 30, it meant graduating college, having a family, and trying to recall those songs I tried to remember and realizing I was too old to moonwalk.”
Hall said he has tried to model his life after King’s great attributes. Today, at the age of 45, the one that stays with him is his definition of “quality of life.”
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provided me with the desire to fill my life with quality experiences, accomplishments, prayer, and faith,” he said. “He is truly still a role model for our youth of today and tomorrow.”
The federal holiday for King took effect in 1986. Oberlin celebrated it in 1971 under the leadership of Bob Thomas, according to the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day proclamation, which was read by councilwoman Sharon Pearson.
Pearson was excited to read the proclamation because she recently learned her father is the first cousin of the Rev. Joel King of Columbus, who is the first cousin of King. “He’s not blood related but there is some relation there,” she said.
“The memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a continuing inspiration and ideal for many young people in Oberlin and all over the world,” the proclamation states. “It is now our generation’s responsibility to honor the life and memory of Dr. King by answering his powerful calls to action and by continuing to fight for his legacy of equality for all.”
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @ValUrbanik on Twitter.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Oberlin Schools superintendent David Hall talks about how Martin Luther King Jr. has been his role model.