The Bowdoin Community paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a ceremony in the Chapel Monday evening. The Longfellows, Slam Poet Society and the Bowdoin Community Gospel Choir performed in memory of Dr. King, and Brian Purnell, assistant professor of Africana studies, spoke of MLK’s legacy.
“It was obvious how much this day meant to people,” said Ben Osher ’15, who performed at the service. “I felt like the lines between the secular and the religious were becoming blurred.”
“It was a day for all of us to step back for a moment and reflect—a day to remember principles of equality and of individual achievements,” President Barry Mills said.
This year’s holiday also marked the inauguration of President Obama for his second term in office. The proceedings in Washington, D.C. were broadcast around campus.
“Obama was as eloquent as ever,” Conor Tillinghast ’16 said.
“When you think about MLK looking over the mountain top, this could have been part of what he saw,” Ellery Maya-Altshuler ’15 said. “It’s an incredible thing when you know that 50 million people voted for an African-American.”
Bob Ives ’69, the College’s newly appointed director of spiritual life was working at Hawthorne-Longfellow Library when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on April 4, 1968.
“It was so devastating that both my roommate and I decided we would go to his funeral in Atlanta, Georgia,” Ives told the crowd inside the packed Chapel.
When Roy Greason, the president of the College, heard that Ives and his roommate planned to travel to the funeral of King, he asked if they would accept plane tickets paid for by the College and represent Bowdoin at the funeral.
Representing Bowdoin at MLK’s funeral, Ives said, became one of the most pivotal and inspirational moments of his life.
“MLK once said that the problem of human and civil rights would often be more acute in the north than in the south,” Ives said. “In the north people hide their prejudices against one and other; in the south people know where they stand.”
Among those attending the inauguration were President MIlls and his wife Karen.
“I was there not as the President of Bowdoin College,” Mills said. “But as the spouse of Karen Mills, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration.”
“I was delighted that Barry could join me to celebrate such a historic day,” Karen Mills said. “Our day was filled with memorable moments, including the Morning Prayer service, a view of the National Mall as the President took his oath and dancing at the White House.”
The couple was seated at the presidential stand along with U.S. Senator Angus King, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, and former Presidents Clinton and Carter, to name a few.
President Mills and his wife ended their day at a party in the White House.
“It was just all too cool,” Mills said.