King Day speaker challenges: Do better, be better

Jan 22, 2014

Tracy Maxwell HeardAssessing progress in moving Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy forward, the work that remains to be done seems daunting, according to Tracy Maxwell Heard, the Democratic leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. Yet, Heard said if we teach those under our care, King’s vision to reform -- “to do better and be better” -- is achievable.

Heard gave the call to action during Heidelberg’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Tuesday, speaking about where we are in relation to King’s legacy. Using historical context, she compared reform under Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, calling it “very different but with the same purpose.”

“In America, I feel we are asleep,” said Heard, who made history as the first African American woman to be the Majority Floor Leader of the Ohio House in 2009. “We must awaken to what is happening in the world around us.”

She fears that Americans are simply observing King’s legacy and are lacking a commitment to action. “We need to stop celebrating the dream and start living it, affirming it and confirming it,” she said.

“We must stop turning back the clock. We are here to learn to be reformers … to do better and be better.”

Those who approach life like a reformer, engaging in the world around them – in school, work and community – are likely to make contributions that supersede the self. Awakening from the dream will allow us to be inspired by it and react to it. “Reform is participatory,” Heard said, “and requires visionaries like Martin Luther and Martin Luther King.

“But more than the vision, we must be people who continue to believe in the vision.”

Danielle Pike, ’12, who is working as the senior legislative aide for Heard, helped bring her to Heidelberg for Tuesday’s program.

Huntington, Heard and PikeHeidelberg’s Concert Choir began Tuesday’s program with an a capella performance of “You Are the New Day,” followed by a welcome by President Rob Huntington. Senior Mitchell Kelly served as master of ceremonies, and Chaplain Paul Stark gave the invocation and sending forth.

The program also featured presentation of the President’s Service Award to ’12 alum Andrew Long-Higgins. Long-Higgins, who sent a video expressing his thanks for the award, is currently working with the Forum for Development, Culture and dialog in Beirut, has been working on humanitarian issues in the Middle East through partnership programs with the United Church of Christ.

—Sophomore Katelyn Kuhajda contributed to this article.