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MVNU joins community in honoring King, Miller

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — The Mount Vernon and Knox County community gathered virtually to reflect on the work of Martin Luther King Jr., during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday, Jan. 17. The event, themed “In this year of yearning, we are learning,” was sponsored by MVNU, Kenyon College and the Knox County Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Committee.

MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II reflected upon King’s perception of community and how we should continue to look for ways to unite rather than divide.

“What King saw so clearly, and in a way that all too few do not, is that our lives are wrapped up together. We occupy the same planet, nation, city, and community. My personal safety will never be more secure than that of my neighbor. Too often in our time, we think in adversarial terms. Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, right-wing and progressive, and the list could go on and all too often becomes shorthand ways to diminish others. It is easy to allow integration in terms of political victories won and lost to substitute for moral advance,” said Spaulding. “King transcends the political chatter to get right to the point, ‘At the heart of all that civilization has meant and developed is ‘community’ – the mutually cooperative and voluntary venture of humankind to assume a semblance of responsibility for his neighbor.’”

The Beulah Apostolic Excellence Award was presented to Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller. The award is presented annually to an individual in Knox County who exemplifies the characteristics of servant leadership exhibited by King in their everyday lives and work. Miller’s selection focused on her efforts to lead the county through the challenges of a pandemic while continuing to mold conversations and programs that encompass the health and wellbeing of all county residents.

“I am both honored and humbled by this award, primarily because I love my job and serving our community,” Miller said. “I’m honored because I’ve always tried to be the servant leader Dr. King challenged us all to be. … This year of yearning certainly had all of us learning. Learning more about faith, about trust, and about hope. As Martin Luther King once said, ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the entire staircase.’ We certainly haven’t climbed the entire staircase with this pandemic yet, or all that needs to be done in this community in regard to injustice and inequality, but I have faith, with the assistance of the entire Knox Public Health team and our community, I will try to lead the community to a sense of trust and hope even when we aren’t all sure what’s at the top of our staircase.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Angelle M. Jones, MVNU Adjunct Professor, turned the event’s theme to challenge those attending the virtual event.

“To each of you I ask, in this year of yearning, what are we learning,” Jones said. “I’d like you to consider what is it that you find yourself yearning for in 2022? Whether it’s individual safety or the collective healing of a raging pandemic that has exposed health, economic and social disparities. Are you yearning for justice for all?”

Jones expounded upon King’s fight for passage of legislation that would ensure civil rights for all Americans and his belief that what is in a man’s heart will ultimately reflect the success of those laws. She reminded her audience that she still hears King’s message in the lives and voices of his children and in the words of people like poet Amanda Gorman.

“As Dr. King’s booming voice carried the fight for justice in his time, we have been left with the mandate to make sure that his legacy continues to march on. May his legacy continue to speak, may it continue to be written, may it continue to teach and preach through those who have taken the baton to continue the necessary work of creating an equitable and just society,” Jones said. “A society where every race and ethnicity are acknowledges. A society where Dr. King recognized and called the beloved community. A society where all are invited to a seat at the head table where decisions are made to ensure that equal rights and economic justice are made available to everyone in the room.

I challenge you to set a place at the table where you are seated with power, a place for your brothers and sisters of color. A place where we might be able to come and know that we are genuinely welcomed.”

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries.