On-Campus and At Home, Widener Honors MLK's Living Legacy for Change

By Jeannine McKnight, Senior Editor
Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to crowd
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

As the nation recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work as an advocate for peace and social justice, members of the Widener University community are encouraged to honor his legacy by spending time completing community service projects individually, and participating in a week of special events. 

Widener has a unique connection to King, who lived in Chester, Pennsylvania  from 1948 to 1951 while he was an undergraduate student at Crozier Theological Divinity. While the university traditionally honors his holiday with commemorative events and large-scale volunteer service projects, Widener is taking extra steps to demonstrate unity while maintaining social distancing requirements necessitated by the Coronavirus.

We are offering a number of virtual events over the holiday week, where people can come together via Zoom to hear speakers, take part in conversations about social justice and common ground, and reflect on Dr. King’s contributions. But we also encourage people to get out there and create their own meaningful service projects, too. — Dean of Students John Downey

For students, faculty and staff who wish to make a personal, hands-on contribution to public service, university staff compiled a list of projects any Widener person – no matter their location – could look to for inspiration. They include:

•    Clearing out a home closet to donate gently used winter clothing, especially coats, scarves, and gloves for those in need, especially during these difficult economic times. 
•    Signing up as a volunteer in the community. Google "volunteer opportunities near me" to find local opportunities, including Meals on Wheels, online tutoring, walking dogs at animal shelters, cleaning up local parks and trails, assisting community centers and libraries, and many more.
•    Putting on gloves, grabbing a trash bag, and going for a long walk, cleaning the route along the way.
•    Supporting a favorite local small business that may be struggling, by writing a positive review on Yelp, Yahoo!, or other forums. 
•    Reaching out to vulnerable senior citizens in the neighborhood, and offering to run errands for them, or visiting with them from a safe distance. 

“Taking one or more of these ideas and personalizing it makes it possible for all of us to contribute to a day of service. While we cannot execute large-group, in-person service projects this year, that doesn’t mean we can’t get out there and make a difference by showing our Widener spirit individually,” Downey said.

With the theme “Voices of Change” the university has also planned a variety of virtual events open to all in the Widener community over the week of the holiday.

Widener President Julie E. Wollman and Chief Diversity Officer Micki Davis will host their annual MLK Common Ground Discussion for Widener students, faculty, and staff. The discussion will reflect on the following quote by King:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate...Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Other commemorative events—also conducted virtually and open to Widener students, faculty, and staff—continue throughout the week. 

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