While many schools, banks and businesses closed their doors on Monday in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bowdoin College had its first day of classes of the semester. The College sponsored two campus events: the screening of the film "Eyes on the Prize" during the day in Smith Union and an evening program in the Chapel. Students, faculty and staff had mixed feelings regarding whether the day was sufficiently marked, especially in light of the inauguration of the first African-American president the following day.
Yando Peralta '11, who attended the program in the Chapel titled "A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The March Continues to Realize The Dream," said he thought that it could have been done on a larger scale, with more participation from both students and teachers.
"Not to say this wasn't well-attended, but I feel that this shouldn't be some sort of side event," he said.
Isa Abney '11 made clear his feelings that Bowdoin should have done more in commemoration.
"I'm not really surprised that Bowdoin College doesn't take Martin Luther King Day seriously. It's Bowdoin—I wouldn't expect anything more given how we deal with race here," he said.
Others felt that the life, work, and dream of King was appropriately ackowledged by the two campus events on Monday.
The Chapel event filled up quickly, with attendees showing up 30 minutes early to get in. The program was primarily composed of excerpts from King's speeches and writing, which were read aloud by students, teachers and faculty.
The event concluded with the singing of "We Shall Overcome," during which, many audience members held hands.
Roy H. Partridge, a visiting assistant professor of sociology and special assistant to the president for multicultural affairs, read an excerpt from "Letters from a Birmingham Jail, 1963."
"The event was very powerful and I thought it was very fitting," Partridge said, though he also said of Bates' whole-day celebration of King: "Maybe we could do some of that."
When asked whether having a day off would be a more appropriate way to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, opinions varied but were mostly in favor of holding classes.
"I think that what's most important about days like this is not whether we have the day off or if we're working," said Hassan Muhammad '10, who both spoke and played piano during the event. "What's most imortant is that we honor Dr. King's legacy as well as what he stood for."
"Obviously a day off would have been nice, but what was cool about this is that I can't think of a better way to celebrate the man [than reflecting on his words and message]," said Julia Bond '09.
"It's great for a day off but it doesn't really get to the crux and really honor the man," said Associate Librarian for Public Services Judy Montgomery. "I think it's okay to have classes," she said, adding her hope that classes would take time to discuss King.
Montgomery helped to organize the first event of the day, the annual "Children's Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.," that morning in Moulton Union.
The celebration has occurred for about seven or eight years, according to Montgomery, and was started because there were no Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events in the area for children.
During the hour and a half, two children's book authors read, drew, sang and spoke with children around the age of five.
Montgomery emphasized the connection between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration at the event by explaining the importance of voting to the children and asking them to vote for their favorite season.
Rohan Henry, author of the children's book "The Perfect Gift," was one of the writers present at the event.
"[Given] the time that we're in right now today with Obama being inaugurated, I think it's important to have the day off to reflect on that, now that some of [King's] dream is coming true," said Henry.
Henry cited the portion of the "I Have A Dream" speech in which King states his hope that his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" in reference to his decision to vote for Obama.
"I'm black and didn't vote for him because he's black. I mean, Jesse Jackson's black and I would never vote for him!" Henry said.
Fellow children's book author Charlotte Agell did not feel that a day off was necessary to commemorate King's life and memory.
"If you're in a situation where you're at work there are ways to mark the day," she said as she sketched a boy's portrait. "Barack Obama has asked everyone to go out and do something for their communities."