Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Mass., presented his grand vision for America on Thursday afternoon at Northeastern University, calling upon people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to rededicate themselves to closing the achievement gap and improving the safety of their neighborhoods.
“It is the love and wisdom and commitment to justice that makes our nation great,” he said. “We can use our intellect and talent to face these challenge and move forward.”
Warren delivered his remarks to members of the Northeastern community and a score of Boston middle- and high-school students who filled Blackman Auditorium for the university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation. Sponsored by the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute, the festive event celebrated King’s life and legacy as a champion of human rights through gospel music and readings of his work.
Robert Jose, associate dean of cultural and residential life, read a selection from The Trumpet of Conscience, a collection of lectures in which King summed up his forward-thinking views on racism, poverty, and war. “Dr. King,” Jose said, “had prophetic insight into the soul of man.”
Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun underscored King’s contribution to the country’s social and political progress. Of King’s Nobel Peace Prize, Aoun noted, “You don’t receive this prize for impacting one community; you receive it because you impacted the world.”
“We are still feeling his impact,” Aoun added. “Without him, we wouldn’t have Setti Warren or President Obama.”
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Warren, for his part, invoked the late politician Robert F. Kennedy in calling for an end to racial and social inequality. The democratic senator from New York delivered remarks on King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, at a presidential campaign stop in Indianapolis, Ind., saying, “What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another.”
“When I read Kennedy’s words, I am reminded of what we need to do to rise above our differences,” Warren said. “Let’s use Dr. King’s life and Kennedy’s message to revive our efforts to embrace a new way of thinking.”
Warren is the son of the late Joseph Warren, the founder of Northeastern’s Youth Development Initiative Project. Like King, Warren dedicated his life to others. “My father loved Northeastern and loved making sure that every young person had a chance to succeed,” his son said.
The 90-minute ceremony featured several rousing musical performances. Audience members clapped along to the tribal beats of the percussion ensemble IntraAfrika and gave two standing ovations to the Voices of Renaissance Choir from the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. Choir members, who have performed for the First Lady and President Obama at the White House, donned oversized blue gowns and sang a stirring rendition of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Another song featured a spoken introduction in which one group member said, “I am a child hero—there is room for me at the top.”