YOUNGSTOWN At diversity event, judge speaks of King
'No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence,' the judge said.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be pleased with some of the changes that have taken place over the last four decades but would be distressed by others, says Nathaniel R. Jones, retired federal district court judge.
Jones was the keynote speaker for Youngstown State University's diversity breakfast held in honor of the 74th anniversary of King's birth.
Dr. King would have been pleased to know that YSU's provost, the chief of police of Youngstown and the Cincinnati Bengals' new coach are all men of color, Jones said.
But, "he would have been troubled and distressed by those who twist and distort his words with regard to the standard by which a human being's worth is judged," Jones continued. "He never intended for his call to judge a person by the content of character and not skin color to be a justification for killing off affirmative action and other remedies designed to overcome the vestiges of racial discrimination."
King would also be distressed to know that the Supreme Court is still grappling with affirmative action and a case at the University of Michigan that could determine whether universities will consider race when determining who will be admitted, Jones said. "An adverse decision from that court would set back for decades the quest for diversity, not only in education, but also in jobs and economic opportunity."
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jones said his path crossed with King's on at least four occasions: once when he was asked to drive him to an airport and at church dinners in Columbus, and once in Washington when King appeared to offer his views on the impetus for the race riots that swept through the nation in 1966 and 1967.
King was assassinated in April 1968.
Although America has made tremendous strides, Jones said, it would be "premature for this nation to shut down the remedies that allow for educational, economic and social advances on the mistaken assumption that equality has been achieved."
Jones continued: "I am certain Dr. King would have a message for all of us. It would be that the struggle to lower the barrier that divides us must go on." King would also encourage those who feel beaten to continue to aspire and those who have aspired to help those left behind, Jones said.
"Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs," he said. "But no work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
In 1995, Jones established a scholarship fund at YSU to provide financial assistance to students representing minority populations or economically disadvantaged students planning careers in public service.
Today's breakfast event was sponsored by YSU's Student Diversity Council, which also presented five diversity awards in honor of King's memory.
Barbara C. Orton, retired director of YSU Equal Opportunity and Diversity, received the distinguished service award; Tonzhi, a student organization that focuses on concerns of gay and lesbian students, received the creative initiatives award for its Safe Zone project; students Snowflake Kicovic and Loren Webb received scholastic achievement awards for their contributions to the study of physics and astronomy; and Dr. Michael Crescimanno, professor of physics and astronomy, received the mentorship award.
YSU's Student Diversity Council plans to make the diversity breakfast an annual event.