The smooth and tinny sounds of the Jazz Band could be heard as you stepped into the Fine Arts Center for this spring’s convocation. There were trumpets, trombones, saxophones, a keyboard, a guitar and a deep bass that rounded off the sound. The ambiance was fun and exciting as people entered, which is exactly how it was when everybody exited to “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Convocation itself, however, had a very serious demeanor and was centered on social justice. Keepers of the Flame was the theme of this convocation, and it honored those people who still, to this day, live out Martin Luther King’s words that were spoken so many years ago.
“Oppression is everywhere and is a part of human nature,” said Doctor Michael Kearnen, the orchestrator of the ceremony, “In most places of oppression, there are still people who refuse to embrace violence.”
Kearnen then introduced students, some of whom were part of the Social Justice Club on campus to read a variety of speeches, letters and other pieces.
Brian Garby read “Love Your Enemies,” a sermon given by King. As Garby read, the entire audience was completely silent, absorbing each word.
“I liked the Martin Luther King speech. It talked about a lot of really good things,” said Jeremy Benoit, a sophomore at Castleton State.
The collegiate Chorale performed “Wade on the Water” and “We Shall Overcome” between readings before Kearnen returned to introduce the next story.
Mykael Harrigan read a letter Nelson Mandela, who had been sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and other charges, wrote to his daughters while he was in prison after their mother was captured. It explained how their mother was extremely brave and was doing what needed to be done for the good of their people.
Lani Willard read “I Have No Enemies” by Liu Xiaobo who called for political reforms and the end of communist one-party rule in China. The only time he was able to give this speech was while he was on trial because he was forbidden to speak publicly otherwise.
Lastly, Linda Limoges read “Freedom From Fear” by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese opposition politician and daughter of Aung San, the father of modern-day Burma.
All of the previous individuals embraced non-violence and refused to resort to it as a means to reach their goals. Social justice is an important issue in our society, even today. And honoring and remembering those people who still stand for it is important.
“I thought it was really enjoyable. There were good speeches and great music,” said Ryan Delorme, a freshman at Castleton.
“It’s one of my favorite events of the year. We come together as a community and celebrate social justice. I’m very thankful to Mike Kearnen, who is genuinely a renaissance man,” said Dave Wolk, President of Castleton State College.