Nobel Peace Prize winner shares thoughts about MLK at community vigil

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer
Evanston residents gathered at Alice Millar Chapel for the vigil Monday night in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. The candlelight service was sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Lan Nguyen, Reporter

Nobel Peace Prize winner Warren Washington commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday night with a speech on the civil rights movement and its effect on climate change research.

The 35th annual candlelight vigil, which drew in about 150 Northwestern and Evanston community members to Alice Millar Chapel, included Washington’s keynote and musical performances from various groups. 

Washington is an expert in atmospheric science and climate research. He contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He specializes in computer modeling of Earth’s climate and stated that he drew inspiration from King.

“I watched Dr. Martin Luther King’s talk ‘I Have a Dream,’ and it had a very powerful impact on me in terms of seeing someone articulate so well the need to improve civil rights,” Washington said.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, which Washington and King were both members of, organized the event along with the MLK Day Planning Committee.

The committee chose Washington to speak because of his historical role as the second African-American to receive a doctorate in atmospheric science, as well as his terms as a science advisor to presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Washington’s speech received a standing ovation from the audience.

“Dr. Washington is a role model, mentor and inspiration to many generations of researchers from diverse backgrounds,” said Cameron Dickerson, a Weinberg junior and Alpha Phi Alpha member.

The Northwestern Community Ensemble, performed freedom songs, which were sung during protests in the Civil Rights Era, including “We Shall Overcome.”

The Catatonics and the Treblemakers also performed during the event.

“I really enjoyed watching all of the performances,” Alpha Phi Alpha secretary Malik Dent said. “I really enjoyed putting on the event and thought it was successful.”

Dent, a SESP sophomore, also took part in the vigil and performed excerpts from King’s speech “Loving Your Enemies.”

During the reciting of the speech, members of Alpha Phi Alpha collected offerings from the audience to benefit the Child Care Center of Evanston, which aims to provide affordable day care for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Martin Luther King asked us to take action and to do what we as Americans do best: lend a hand, help our neighbors and build our communities,” SESP senior Tony Jones said.

The ceremony ended with the audience lighting candles and reciting a prayer in King’s memory.

Correction: A previous version of this story and the accompanying caption misidentified the musical group which performed “We Shall Overcome.” The Northwestern Community Ensemble performed the song. The Daily regrets the error.

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