Southeast Missouri State University student publication

17th Annual MLK Jr. Dinner Celebrates “CommUnity: Justice, Equity and Love”

Thursday, January 27, 2022
Student Peighton Robinson sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the MLK Celebration Dinner Jan. 26 2022.
Photo by Alyssa Lunsford

Southeast faculty and students, along with members of the community, celebrated the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner with keynote speaker Brian S. Miller on Jan 26. Miller is a veteran, lawyer, judge, president of Centennial Church Foundation, husband and father.

In contrast to last year’s fully-virtual event, this year’s celebration dinner was in-person, except for Miller's speech, which was presented over Zoom, as he was unable to attend due to illness.

The evening opened with Dr. Shonta Smith, MLK Jr. Planning Committee member, as she announced the emcees for the evening, SEMO students Camille Shoals and Jay Harris.

Dr. Vargas delivered a speech after dinner on the topic of campus unity and how little acts of kindness, such as smiling at a passerby, can change the course of someone’s day.

Performing arts student Peighton Robinson, accompanied by her mother Ramona Bailey, was given a standing ovation for their musical performance.

Student Heather Hoffman attended Wednesday night’s event for the first time.

“The event went very well,” she said. “It did well at showcasing students, faculty and the speaker, which was representative of the theme of community. The speaker seemed very passionate and had great insight.”

Keynote speaker Judge Brian S. Miller attends the MLK celebration dinner via zoom. Judge Miller gave his speech on CommUnity: Justice. Equity. Love. on Jan. 26, 2022.
Photo by Alyssa Lunsford

Miller spoke on the theme “CommUNITY: Justice. Equity. Love.,” in which he discussed overcoming obstacles in his life and building community through everyday actions.

“After 55 years, I finally figured out the one thing for me: No outside sources are going to solve the problems of my community,” Miller said. “There’s no law that’s going to end all racism or solve poverty or despair in my community.”

He said the things he does in his everyday life help to improve his community around him. These actions include visiting prisons to see how the people inside are doing, working with those who are in tough situations and picking up trash on the streets in his neighborhood. Miller explained how these actions might be little, but they can make a big difference in someone else’s life.

At the end of his speech, Miller continued talking about community and said, “The way to community, the way to justice, the way to equity, the way to show our love for one another is for each one of us to stop looking for some external solution for our nation’s problems. Each one of us must look inward and commit to love one another, to feed the hungry ourselves, and yes, to clothe the naked.”

Audience members mingle before the start of the MLK celebration dinner on Jan. 26, 2022.
Photo by Alyssa Lunsford

Director of Campus Life and Event Services and MLK Jr. Planning Committee member Michele Irby said, “I think it went very well. The program was planned to do a variety of things, to have the video, the live performances, [and] to bring in a bit of history and then a keynote, and so I think all the components that we hoped were a part of the event actually occurred.”

The event ended with a recorded performance by Dr. Jonathan Bibbs singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as those in the audience stood, listened or sang along.