At 6:30 p.m on Jan. 28, a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., prominent civil rights leader and former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, stood before an anxious audience.
He is both a human rights advocate as well as a community activist who was a former U.S. congressman and mayor of Atlanta, Ga.
Young is admired for his many achievements as the first African-American ambassador to the United Nations. He has published two books called “A Way Out of No Way” and “An Easy Burden.”
Instantly upon Young’s appearance, the entire audience rose in a wave of smiles and put their hands together in respect of his achievements, including his attempts to establish peace and justice throughout the world.
“We are here not just to learn, but to learn how to learn,” he said.
He proceeded to discuss his years growing up and his relationship with King.
“The Martin Luther King you read about is not the Martin Luther King I knew,” Young said. “I knew a 26-year-old Ph.D. student whose plan was to finish his dissertation in a quiet church and become a pastor.”
Young spoke of the painful reality of King’s journeys, whose life took a sudden and unexpected turn after Rosa Parks’s actions, when King’s house was bombed, he was put into jail at least 14 times and was violently abused. According to Young, King had been beaten, stabbed and wrapped in chains in the back of a paddy wagon with a vicious police dog.
King expressed his reaction to the aforementioned event as the worst because he was helpless.
Young explained that these incidents all occurred before King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. According to Young, King was just trying to do what he thought was right. With constant threats of death and harassment, King still had a dream.
Young described his goals for the civil rights movement.
“We did not want equality to white people. We were united in attempting to redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of racism, war and poverty,” he said.
“Although so many achievements have paved the way for progress and the opportunity for racism to diminish, there is still a very long way to go; a few people being successful really does not redeem America that much.
“There’s something wrong when the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, and we consider ourselves a success because of a gross national profit,” Young said.
He concluded the evening by expressing his desire for a better world. “There has got to be a way for us to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools,” he said.
Freshman Riley Fee considered the speech a truly unique experience.
“It’s amazing to know that Mr. Young had close ties with King and worked with him for many years,” he said. “It’s almost as if a small piece of Dr. King was brought to us tonight. It was one of the best feelings in the world and gives me hope for our future.”
“Mr. Young held my attention from the moment he stepped on stage to the moment he stepped off,” freshman Tasha Raman said. “His passion about world peace is evident through his rich history as well as his optimistic plans for the future.”
Miller is a member of the class of 2011.