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Jones says King's vision was shaped by books

February 14, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

"Princess Leia, I am your father."

There was no mistaking the voice when he said those words Thursday night.

Actor James Earl Jones, who gave size and soul to Darth Vader, the villain in Hollywood's "Star Wars" series, possesses perhaps the most distinctive voice in film and television. He addressed an audience of about 2,500 in Heiges Field House at Shippensburg University.

The occasion was the school's annual tribute to the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The event also raised money for the university's Gifted Minority Scholarship Fund.

Jones pulled heavily on memories of the slain civil rights leader. He said King dreamed about universal dignity and equality.

He cited King's vast love of reading. "He had an awesome vocabulary, but said he couldn't spell a lick," Jones said.

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King was strong in English, history, sociology and philosophy. He read the Bible and books by great authors and poets like John Donne, John Bunyan, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Carlyle and William Cullen Bryant.

"He became one of the great orators of his century. He was a charismatic speaker and an articulate writer and he left a legacy that affected the multitudes and individual lives one by one," Jones said.

King came to his work with the knowledge of the great books, from the Bible to fiction to philosophy. "His vision was shaped by the books he read. He wanted to open all doors including art to all people, not to just a few."

Jones said King spoke not to black men exclusively, but to people everywhere.

"He did not die just for civil rights in America, but for the dignity of all who walk this planet," Jones said.

The actor said every ethnic group contributes to the national culture.

The social revolution that started in the early 1960s ignited change everywhere, Jones said. "Martin Luther King said if we are wrong then the Constitution is wrong."

Jones fielded a question from a member of the audience on the issue of reverse discrimination. "It's an issue of fair play, an equal start at the starting line," Jones said. "Black people have always had that problem, and don't you forget it. It's an employment issue. How many CEOs even know a black person?"

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