C.T. Vivian, recipient of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom, spoke at the Wittenberg Convocation this past Monday about the importance of “nonviolent direct action” in the new millennium.
“Ah, you know this is a great day! This is Martin’s birthday,” Vivian said excitedly, as his voice rang through Weaver Chapel, adding, “a new age is here.”
Vivian, born in 1924 in Boonville, Montana, grew up in the age of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In his speech, Vivian spoke fondly of his idol, referring to him as “Martin” and saying he “showed us what the Kingdom should look like,” and “to think about Martin is to think about your face without talking about it…it tells you and your world who God is.”
Vivian regaled the audience with his stories on Gandhi, attempts on King’s life, and living in the South during one of the hardest times in U.S. history.
“We need to solve the problems without violence,” said long-time activist Vivian, “that’s the only way we cure them.”
He emphasized what he calls the new millennium: how citizens must change it by simply doing good and changing themselves first.
However, Vivian also spoke of the martyring of a man like King when pushing for major change. He spoke of the end of King’s life and the writing he was dedicated to.
“He knew he was going to be killed,” Vivian reminisced. “That’s a great privilege, to be good enough to be killed.”
Vivian didn’t forget to liven up his speech with his humor, though; notably, a joke about Gandhi who thought western civilization was “a good idea.” He spoke about the equality of all men and women, whether they be “yellow, black, pink or polka dot.” He even cracked a joke about the fact that some men think they’re superior by saying, “Superiority? There are no superior men; not when we have women around.”
The audience consisted of students, staff and community members who mostly had nothing but kind words to say about the speech.
“I loved the speech; I don’t think we could have had a better speaker than C.T.,” said Reverend Linda Sue Stampley, a self-proclaimed “groovy granny” and lifelong peace activist of Springfield.
“I thought it was really interesting and he spoke well,” said Mackenzie Abel, ’18.
Vivian’s speech was preceded by a performance from the Wittenberg Gospel Choir, whose voices spoke through the chapel about freedom and God, which was very fitting for Vivian, who said shortly after, “Jesus was basic to Martin.”
Vivian ended his speech rather abruptly, but not without purpose. Concluding with the word “millennium,” Vivian told of the hope for a fresh start on those in the chapel; giving faith that they have the power to change the world.