Keeper of the Dream Speaker Calls for Change

Photo by: Jessica Van Fleteren

By DREW HOWARD

Emmy award-winning broadcaster Ed Gordon addressed the Oakland University community on Monday, January 15 to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., though not without reservations.

In recapping Dr. King’s impact on race relations in America, Gordon reminded the packed audience that there’s still more work to do in realizing the civil rights leader’s ultimate vision. He attributed much of this needed work to Donald Trump’s presidency, describing the current White House administration as “chaotic.”

“This last week has illustrated chaos,” Gordon said. “We’ve elected a man who I personally believe is unfit for office.”

“He’s not unfit politically – I’m talking about his content of character. You’re hard-pressed to say that the content of his character is what we’d aspire to or teach our children to follow.”

Gordon used Trump’s administration as a call to arms for African Americans to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, noting that King’s dream has yet to be achieved despite the work of such influencers as Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter and the like.

“I’m encouraging African Americans to be a bit more careful with their vote, and understand that when you give something you need to get something,” he said. “King’s generation was a multicultural change – it wasn’t just black people, but also rabbis and Caucasians and like-minded people who weren’t concerned about color but instead injustice.”

Seven OU students honored with the Keeper of the Dream scholarship, an award given to individuals who have helped promote racial and cultural understanding, sat near the front of the audience. Honorees include Lakaysha Mitchell, Blake Walton, Kessia Graves, Obadah Asbahi, Hansen Karyakose, Farrah Sitto and Michela Manga.

Gordon diverged from his speech to impart advice on the seven honorees, saying that there will be people along the way who try to “extinguish” their flames.

He then shared a story of one of his first post-graduate job interviews in which the hiring manager told him he would never succeed in the broadcasting business. Gordon, now 57, went on to host two BET shows and create his own series, Conversations with Ed Gordon. He’s won an Emmy for his work and has interviewed A-list celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Beyonce and Janet Jackson, among others.

Gordon has also interviewed Barack Obama on several occasions. In one conversation with the former president, who at the time was a senator about to announce his run for president, Gordon sensed that Obama had a special quality that many other influencers didn’t: the belief that he could create change.

“To create change you need to believe in change and that you can make change,” Gordon said. “I began to realize this dude believed he could win. He wasn’t saddled with the baggage that older dudes have. We believed we’d never have a black president, but Obama believed it. I discounted that.”

Gordon asked who in the audience believed they’d never see a black man take the office of President of the United States, with several dozens hands shooting up in response. In concluding his speech, Gordon encouraged audience members to take it upon themselves to change the world and realize Dr. King’s vision.

“Have a little confidence when we leave today, confidence in that we can make a difference, and make the world and country a better place,” he said. “Be as committed as King was and take on his challenges in your own way. Find that way, devote yourself to making the world better, and give yourself a chance to make change.”