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King's message to live in millennium, professor says

January 17, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERBSURG, Pa. - A proponent of non-violence during the most violent century in the history of mankind, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left behind "a message not just for today, but the next millennium," Robert Hewitt said Sunday.

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"He sought to strengthen the common bonds of our humanity," said Hewitt, a professor of social work at Shippensburg University. "Many people say he left us a dream, and a vision and a legacy to that end," he told the 200 people gathered at the St. Paul United Methodist Church for a memorial service honoring the late civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"I believe he left us a challenge to bring that dream . . . to fruition," Hewitt said.

In his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, King called for people to judge each other not by the color of their skin, but "by the content of their character."

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Hewitt said people also must not be judged on the basis of their religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, education or social status.

Hewitt listed the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, the dragging death of a black man in Texas and the beating death of a homosexual man in Wyoming as examples of violence bred by intolerance.

"People who are different continue to be repressed and at risk," Hewitt said.

"Can you imagine a more hate-filled century than the one we just completed?" he asked. "We must actively strive to achieve a hate-free millennium," he said.

"Hold on to unchanging values in these changing times," he said, listing honesty, fair play, love, compassion, social justice, respect for others, prayer and community service.

"Sometimes even those people that love us teach us to be fearful ... of those that are different than us," Hewitt said. "We need to teach our youth to render racism harmless," he said.

"We have to be slow to judge others," said Hewitt. "You cannot stand on the outside of a house and tell what's on the inside," was advice Hewitt's father gave him.

"We need to build bridges by talking to each other, not past each other. Black folks and white folks do that all the time," Hewitt said. He said people must also commit, not just contribute, to a better society.

Hewitt said the difference is like bacon and eggs. "The chicken made a contribution to that egg, but the pig made a total commitment to that bacon," he said.

Levester Taylor of Chambersburg received a surprise at the end of the service when Chambersburg Community Improvement Association Interim President Samuel King announced the association's after-school tutoring program will be named in his honor.

Taylor was among nine people who formed the association in 1963. The Rev. William H. Harter of the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church called Taylor "a mender of the fabric of the world."

The association has tutoring programs at the Buchanan, Gordy, Stevens and Grandview elementary schools in Chambersburg, Taylor said. He said the district's other 15 elementary schools "have tutoring programs that shot off from our tutoring program."

Six students were honored for essays addressing the teachings of King. They were selected from 1,063 entries, or about one submission for every eight students in the district, up from about 500 last year, according to Yvonne Taylor, a professor of elementary education at Shippensburg University.

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