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Mount Union Hosts MLK Day Speaker

January 24, 2013 - by Megan E. Smith

ALLIANCE, Ohio—The University of Mount Union welcomed keynote speaker Dr. Jo-Ann Lipford Sanders to Dewald Chapel on Wednesday, where she spoke in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She presented her lecture “The Declaration of Independence: A Dream Deferred.”

Lipford Sanders is associate dean and director of master of arts in counseling and professor of counseling at Heidelberg University. She began by talking about the man nationally honored each January, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling him someone who would want those living today to look at him in order to draw hope, knowledge and wisdom.

“He was an imperfect man who focused on a perfect justice,” said Lipford Sanders, calling his legacy “unparalleled and unmatched.”

From there, she urged the audience to view Martin Luther King Jr. Day not only as a holiday and a trip down memory lane, but also a day of action. Knowing the day only as a day off work will be “inadequate,” said Lipford Sanders, advising listeners to move beyond celebration to action.

“We must revisit the past, but with purpose,” said Lipford Sanders. She called the past a time of “sacrifice and struggle” that must be reflected on in order to bring about change, but not something to be dwelled upon in order to permit inaction. “The American public is moving toward enlightenment and tolerance,” she said. “We must seize this moment and cause change.”

Lipford Sanders then moved on to the Declaration of Independence and its dream-deferring qualities, citing its skewed interpretation as a major reason Dr. King’s dream was unable to become a full reality.

“The idea of ‘We the People’ is not correctly understood or acted on,” she said. According to Lipford Sanders, while justice for all was guaranteed as a certain truth in the Declaration of Independence, the concepts of freedom and equality were defined by those who had already defined slavery and brought it into being. In this way, the meaning of the document was manipulated for early-America’s own personal agenda, leading to Dr. King’s dream being deferred.

“Dr. King believed in the power of the truth,” said Lipford Sanders. “To fully embrace the truth would mean to free everyone.”

Lipford Sanders believes that more than just one day of service is needed to cause change. She cited racism, intolerance and hate as the culprits of injustice, all of which will take more than one day of action to eliminate.

“If you and I don’t get engaged, a dream deferred can become a dream forgotten or a dream ignored,” said Lipford Sanders. “Progress is not inevitable or natural. We, the people, must do it.”

Lipford Sanders asked the audience to remember the past, noting that history can help re-sensitize a nation into acting. She said failure to speak or act could cause people to repeat mistakes made in the past or open the door to other mistakes.

“A weak foundation makes an unsteady house,” she said. “Only when the root causes of injustice are eliminated can we reach our destiny.”

Lipford Sanders compared progress to a relay race, stating that today’s generations are responsible for the next leg of the race. Now that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has passed the baton to those after him, they should look back to him as an example in progressing truth and abolishing injustice.

“The dreamer now sleeps,” said Lipford Sanders, “but his dream—his vision—is alive and well.”

Lipford Sanders received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate in counselor education with a concentration in marriage and family counseling from Kent State University. She has clinical professional counselor licensure in the state of Ohio, with a clinical supervision endorsement. Lipford Sanders sits on several boards for mental health issues and serves as an educational consultant to multiple public school systems.

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