The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Jan. 14, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Jan. 14, 2018

On the eve of MLK Day, we asked this week's panel: What speech or part of Martin Luther King's story do you find most inspiring?

Fifth-grader, Stratton Elementary, Champaign

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is most inspiring to me because of his if-you-could-dream-it, you-could-do-it mentality, accomplishing many things in life before he sadly passed away.

"I love the way how he tried to fight — each time for everyone's rights, not just black people. Every race. White people could go to black people's schools, black people could go to white people's schools. He wanted to have every race be one — to join hands and be together.

"His iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech, which wasn't meant to be a threat, became a threat to many people, which led to him going to the hotel and sadly being assassinated. In all that time before his death, he boycotted buses, he marched, he protested — everything just to fight for everyone's rights and for everyone to be equal."

Founding director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute

"In a July 1952 love letter that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote to Coretta Scott, he expressed the ideal that I think best describes their shared life mission: 'Let us continue to hope, work and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth and a brotherhood that transcends race or color.'"

C-U chapter leader, Black Lives Matter, and Parkland sociology professor

"To me, Martin Luther King Jr. was a fearless advocate for human rights and the plight of the oppressed. Although his words have been so unfortunately watered down, there are speeches that condemn American capitalism, racism and militarism — the 'three evils' that continue to plague our society decades after his death.

"His speech 'The Other America' goes into some of this. He was dynamic. He was a proponent of solidarity as well as an advocate of black self-determination."

HR Director, Flex-n-Gate

"I relate to this based on my day-to-day interactions in and outside of work. You really learn the true character of individuals in challenging times.

"This particular quote helps me maintain a sense of balance as obstacles materialize. It's also important that I provide an example for my children as they grow and learn.

"Martin Luther King Jr. once said: 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'"

Director, UI Black Chorus

"I am inspired by many of Dr. King's writings, sermons and speeches. However, I will narrow my comments to a passage from his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail.'

"Specifically, King's words, 'Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.'

"In my anthem, 'I Hear Freedom,' I was inspired by these words and with some measure of artistic license wrote, 'I feel as though I could shout from mountain to valley, join heart and hand; together, yes we can, in the bond of mutuality; we keep a-comin ...'

"Realizing God's sovereignty, that the 'arc of history will ultimately bend toward justice,' and inspired by Dr. King's example to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God, I remain encouraged to continue to serve my generation as artist, teacher and activist."

Pastor, First UMC of Urbana

"'I am somebody' is the one phrase that resonates in my spirit when my mind reflects on the life and legacy of Dr. King. His words stung me with deep optimism the day I heard them.

"I wished I was there to feel that raw optimism, to breathe in the fragrance of justice, when he said: 'And so every black person in this country must rise up and say: I'm somebody; I have a rich, proud and noble history, however painful and exploited it has been. I am black, but I am black and beautiful.'"

UIC African American Studies professor earned three degrees from UIUC

"One quote from Dr. King that plays over and over in my head is 'Riots are the language of the unheard.' It has significant meaning in these days and times, given the current political moment."

Authored picture-book biography 'Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'

"Recently, I was reading Coretta Scott King's autobiography, 'My Life, My Love, My Legacy' and learned something new about their wedding ceremony in 1953.

"Coretta wanted the traditional language about 'obeying' one's husband deleted from the marriage vows: 'The language made me feel too much like an indentured servant.'

"She was a bit worried that Martin might object, for this was a revolutionary idea in 1953. Dr. King completely understood her viewpoint and agreed.

"Again, it was confirmed for me that his humanity and progressiveness operated on so many levels."

UI high school counselor

"MLK's 'Strength to Love' speech captivates me as a Christian and social worker because we live in a world where there's so much hate; yet, MLK promoted love and unity.

"A quote from his speech that stuck with me was, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.'

"He put his body on the line for social justice and to end racism, social injustice and other forms of discrimination because he loved the human race. He died so that I would not be judged by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character. That's true love.

"He was a perfect example of selfless servant leadership that I believe we all can learn to be a better person from."

Centennial High School senior and 2018 winner of Champaign County's James R. Burgess Jr./Susan Freiburg Humanitarian Award for Social Justice

"Dr. King said, 'We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.'

"I want to facilitate the expansion of companies that are truly people-centric. I am determined to make a discernible difference on the world stage by creating marketing plans that showcase the excellence and facilitate the growth of every business I come in contact with.

"I will work with businesses whose mission statements are in line with solving social issues.

"I will develop business plans and marketing portfolios for corporations that emphasize social and environmental responsibility.

"I will make sure that these entities promote processes that enhance humanity and nurture the Earth."