“Listen to the Legacy” Day of Service Brings King’s Message to Life

Monday, January 15, 2018
Volunteer sorting shelves during the MLK day of service

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is more than a historical figure worthy of a statue. His actions have become the foundation of modern American life. His words, invoking the inherent dignity owed all human beings, still speak true.

So while 2018 marks 50 years since King’s life and mission was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, the civil rights leader has a lot to give to contemporary society.

On Monday, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the auditorium of Arrupe Hall on the Rockhurst University campus to kick off the University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, titled “Listen to the Legacy” in tribute to King and the civil rights’ movement’s lasting impact.

“It was structured to get us to begin listening instead of speaking so much,” said Andrew Burnside, a junior who helped plan the interfaith prayer service. “It’s not just a theme — we consider listening a vital skill in understanding one another. Sometimes we talk too much and we don’t listen, and when we do that, we miss out on hearing other people’s experiences and being able to reflect on those.”

Featuring prayers from different faith traditions, songs from the St. Monica Church choir, and recordings of King’s own voice, the ceremony proved the power that mutual understanding can have in building unity across race, religion, and other boundaries.

“I think we hear the word ‘inclusive’ more now, and about being inclusive, and listening goes hand in hand with that,” Burnside said.

Freshman Mi’Kayla Taylor said the interfaith prayer service, punctuated by a rousing rendition of civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome, was a physical manifestation of that call to inclusion.

“Seeing everyone coming together, and the choir singing at the end hit home for me a lot,” she said. “It really reminded me of my church back at home, and with everyone being so unified, it brought tears to my eyes.”

Following the service, more than a hundred students and staff left for an afternoon of service projects, ranging from cleaning up around Brush Creek, to hearing from and standing with Mothers in Charge Kansas City to bring attention to the toll gun violence has taken on families in the area, to spending time with residents at the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City.

Taylor, who was preparing to spend the afternoon assembling care packages for Franciscan Mission Warehouse, said it was a fitting way to live out what Dr. King stood for.

“Service was a big part of Dr. King’s message, a way to get out into the community,” she said. “This is a way to give back, and picking this day for a service project makes it even more special to me.”