Martin Luther King remembered at Benedictine University breakfast
By David Sharos For The Sun January 21, 2013 9:50AM
Retired U.S. Army Col. Jill Morgenthaler gives the keynote address at the 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at Benedictine University on Monday, January 21, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:11AM
A hearty breakfast offered at Benedictine University in Lisle Monday morning was about so much more than a cup of coffee and lots of good food. More importantly, it was about celebrating the birthday of one of our nation’s greatest leaders for peace and the changes he hoped for in the world.
About 600 people crowded the Krasa Student Center Monday for the 18th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, an event cohosted by Benedictine and the College of DuPage.
Benedictine President Dr. William Carroll was beaming Monday as guests walked by exchanging morning greetings.
“We have a very diverse institution here and this event is a celebration of that,” Carroll said. “This is one of the larges events of its kind in Chicago, and we feel it is a very prestigious event. It is a chance for students, friends, community leaders and those representing various groups to come together and celebrate worldwide diversity.”
A choir entertained guests as they entered the hall followed by the introduction of Monday’s guest speaker, retired U.S. Army Col. Jill Morgenthaler of Des Plaines. Morgenthaler served as Illinois’ first homeland security adviser and filled a variety of roles in the military including service as a peacekeeper in Bosnia and overseeing recovery work after the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco.
A recipient of the Bronze Star for her leadership in Iraq in 2004, Morgenthaler told the crowd that “American heroes come in both genders, all sexual preferences, all religions and all colors.”
“We must start the conversation, we must talk so there won’t be killing, and we must have the conversation so people can prove us wrong in our stereotypes, assumptions, and prejudice,” she said. “Let us remember the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.’ Ladies and gentlemen, let the conversation begin.”
Kings’ words were not lost on Rev. Henry Soles and his wife Effie of Crete, who were invited to Monday’s breakfast. Soles said he participated over four decades ago in King’s freedom march on Washington, D.C., and remembered someone dressed in a Nazi uniform who tried to intimidate him that day.
“We’ve made so much progress since Dr. King’s time and there is a lot more involvement today in the system,” Soles said. “I’m from Alabama and an uncle of mine was lynched by whites because they felt he shouldn’t be in the neighborhood. I was a journalist as well as a minister, and I don’t hold hatred against all whites. I believe that today more people are involved in the process.”
Lisle’s Mayor Joe Broda was among the many government officials attending Monday who reflected on the progress our society has made since the early 1960s.
“We’ve really come a long way in terms of our diversity and having that recognized by the world,” Broda said. “For me, Dr. King was a person who made a difference by supporting peaceful protests. That’s the best way to do things. I tell others not to give up their rights but do things peacefully and with respect. I wonder some times what the world would be like if people like Dr. King and John F. Kennedy had lived.”
Benedictine students like Lexy Cascone, 18, of Lake in the Hills, also reflected on the importance of the day, despite not being alive when King was making an impact.
“It’s important that people come together and I think it’s important that Dr. King fought for freedom,” Cascone said. “Each person is an individual and King believed all people deserved respect and should peacefully do what was right.”
Carroll said he was struck that the nation on Monday was celebrating the inauguration of a black president on the same day that one of its most important black leaders was born.
“This shows again that Dr. King’s dream is happening and to celebrate someone who represents that fabric is exciting.”