Five GW students and one professor were presented with Martin Luther King Jr. Awards at a ceremony on Tuesday evening.
The medalists were juniors Nikki Lane and Collin Stevenson; and seniors Shannon Holmes, James Zarsadiaz and Whitney McGuire. James A. Miller, a professor of English and American studies, was also honored.
“It is a particular pleasure to pay tribute to tonight’s honorees,” University President Steven Knapp said. “There is no better way to pay tribute to Dr. King than to honor students and faculty who so clearly embody the values he espoused.”
While the six honorees were the focus of the ceremony, the award ceremony’s namesake was equally prevalent.
“We often think that Dr. King was a great man all by himself, but he was joined by friends and family,” Holmes said. “Everyone, like Dr. King, has dreams . but we must wake up and pursue those dreams. I challenge you to always, always listen to that King inside of you.”
Lane said King dreamed big even when many people did not.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was dreaming mountains when others were dreaming mounds,” Lane said. “King left us a legacy, big enough, deep enough, and wide enough for everyone to live in. Dream beyond yourself.”
McGuire said she was also inspired by King. She said sometimes it is difficult to believe the dream is alive when racism sprouts up on college campuses nationwide.
“Dr. King’s dream has been a beacon of light, illuminating my path,” she said.
Stevenson used King’s example as an illustration of the importance individuals can have on society.
“Service leadership is unconditionally placing others before yourself,” he said. “You may not be able to change the world, but you can definitely change the lives you include in yours.”
Zarsadiaz shared a quote from King he said influenced his actions.
“Dr. King once said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” Zarsadiaz said.
He expressed his gratitude for the award, adding, “This celebration of tolerance, diversity and Dr. King should not only be in January, but every day of the year. After all, celebrating freedom and equality does not need a holiday.”
James A. Miller, like the student honorees, also spoke of King, referencing his personal experiences as well as his knowledge as a professor of American Studies.
“I was born and came of age in an American society that was racially segregated,” he said. “I’ve been challenged to think very long and hard about my own relationship to Martin Luther King and his legacy, and the way that legacy has deeply influenced my own life.”
Miller discussed the influence King had on America when he was alive and said it is still felt today.
The ceremony ended with a pledge to follow the example of King, led by Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, and the performance of “Lift Every Voice,” by the Alfred Street Baptist Church Men’s Gospel Choir.