By Ken de la Bastide
Anderson and Madison County should work together to bring educational opportunities to all residents of the community, was the message of Dr. James Lewis during the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Throughout his lifetime and during his fight for civil rights in America, King stressed that we are all tied together in a shared destiny.
Lewis, the keynote speaker at the Paramount Theatre on Monday, is the dean-elect of the School of Theology at Anderson University. From the day we are all born we are dependent on the gifts that others bring into our lives, he said.
“We need a community of self-sacrifice and a willingness to do things together,” he said.
Lewis said the community should not settle on half-truths and political rhetoric when it comes to how we view the local educational institutions.
He expressed optimism that local residents are looking to begin a voluntary pre-kindergarten program; that Gov. Mike Pence wants to start a high school program for adults and equity in education funding.
Lewis said compensation for teachers should be protected for those willing to teach in under-achieving schools or at charter schools for low-income students.
“There should be equal opportunity to education and extracurricular activities,” he said. “We should pursue together the kind of education for the benefit of the entire community.”
Lewis said King’s dream of equal education is close to being achieved.
Growing up in Houston, Lewis said, he had limited access to many of the goods, services and institutions available in the community.
“The limits in education were to maintain the status quo,” Lewis said.
He said King’s quest for equal opportunity was not looking for an easy answer and half-baked solutions.
“A true education is to think intensely and critically,” Lewis said. “The most dangerous person is the one with reasoning, but has no morals.”
Those gathered Monday were asked what was needed in Anderson and Madison County to be a community that ensures educational excellence for all students.
“We need to think critically about issues that matter where we reside,” Lewis said. “We should never treat anyone as less than a human being no matter the color of their skin or how they are dressed. We should treat everyone with respect.”
Lewis said the community needs a moral transformation and that King’s message was rooted in the Christian faith.
“We’re all connected,” he said. “The goal is to seek what is best for the community.
“Truth can hurt and be uncomfortable at times,” Lewis continued. “But as Jesus said, the truth can set you free.”
Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith remarked that the Martin Luther King Jr. Day citywide celebration has been the one day that the city has come together for each of the 34 years.
“We should think about how every day we can come and work together to accomplish our goals,” he said. “Anderson faces challenges; we can fix them through unified action.”
Smith said the long-term focus of the community should be about the people who will follow the current city residents.
“There has been a great deal of change and hope in Anderson over the past 34 years,” he said.
— Ken de la Bastide is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: John P. Cleary. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America’s top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.