Editorial: 2003 MLK Day speaker choice meets promises

Almost immediately following January’s the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Northwestern, the event’s organizers promised they would improve the next time around.

It was a bold but necessary vow to make. The reprieve from class to observe the holiday ran from 3 to 6 p.m. to accomodate the schedule of keynote speaker the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles. Kyles spoke on the Chicago Campus earlier in the day, which might have drawn attention away from the Evanston appearance. Whatever the cause, students and community members met the Evanston speech with indifference; he drew less than a third of the audience Jesse Jackson did in 2001.

But this week the MLK Day committee finally tipped its hand, and it’s a royal flush. It has more than fulfilled its promise with the 2003 speaker — Cornel West, a leading race relations expert and Princeton University professor. And they managed to schedule him for 11 a.m., like in 2001.

West is a highly sought after speaker, and his fame is such that he will draw attendees who only know his name. Besides being a respected scholar, West is the author of several books, including the best-selling “Race Matters.” He released a rap album entitled “Sketches of my Culture” in 2001, and if recent Internet reports are to be believed, he will appear as “Counselor West” in next year’s sequels to “The Matrix.”

Lining up a speaker as high-profile as West and scheduling the talk earlier in the day indicates the MLK Day committee did take careful note of the reasons many gave for the lack of success in January.

The committee also has done an excellent job making Evanston schools a part of the celebration, marketing the event as a bridge between the city and NU.

Now all that remains is for the student body to mobilize in force to make 2003 the most successful MLK Day at NU so far. Strong attendance will hammer home to administrators that this is a holiday this campus will not let go unobserved.

Go on, let your voice be heard.