Valparaiso University Hosts “Beloved Community” MLK Day Convocation

As part of a week-long celebration of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Valparaiso University hosted convocation on Monday in the Chapel of the Resurrection focusing on Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community.

“The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community,” Dr. King said in a 1957 speech. During his welcome address, Valparaiso president Dr. Mark Heckler encouraged attendees to become that beloved community.

Those in attendance numbered well into the hundreds, a multi-generational conglomeration representing various ethnicities, backgrounds and faiths.

Keynote speaker Rev. John Nunes opened with the “Twitter version” of his speech in 140 characters: “What MLK mean to me? That the surest cure for dissatisfaction with injustice is peaceful, prophetic & patriotic action.”

Nunes spoke against “the lingering homegrown terrorism known as racism and sexism” while reinforcing Dr. King’s idea of the beloved community.

“Are you not astonished by the amount of inhumanity towards humanity?” Nunes asked. “I hope you are astonished. Change is possible. Change that is peaceful, prophetic and patriotic.”

In addition to Nunes’ speech, attendees heard an invocation from the Rev. Charlene Cox and a benediction from the Rev. James Wetzstein. A hymn was led by members of the Valparaiso University Chorale, Kantorei and men’s and women’s choirs, and the song “Oh Happy Day” was performed by Cecilia Ballard and Alicia Thompson. Tom Meyer accompanied both performances on the piano.

The annual Valparaiso University Martin Luther King, Jr. Award was presented to professor Dr. Stacy Hoult-Saros, the department chair of the Spanish Arts and Sciences department.

“What can I say? This honor puts me in some very lofty company,” Hoult-Saros said after the ceremony. “I’m accepting it as a charge to continue the work that has been done by my friends who have [also] been honored with this award, some of whom are no longer here with us physically. It’s a really emotional day, as you can imagine.

“I’m just so proud of the way our community comes together and celebrates this day every year and celebrates diversity. I’m overwhelmed.”

The convocation was a time for reverence and reflection while celebrating the life, accomplishments and legacy of Dr. King. Heckler was happy the university was able to play and leading role in the convocation.

“Dr. King had a dream about what a beloved community would look like, where people would come together and they would be peaceful even though they saw the world very differently,” Heckler said. “[He dreamed] that they could come together and build a community in peace and love and understanding and redemption. We get these moments when we can come together across the university, the Valpo community and Northwest Indiana and remind ourselves that it’s up to us – right? – up to us to build this beloved community together.

“It’s a privilege to have these moments where we can come together and stop and remember what this man did and what he sacrificed and what he challenged us to do even today, to build a better community together.”