With a wide smile and a “hooah,” U.S. Army Colonel Jill Morgenthaler opened her keynote speech at Benedictine University to a crowd of 500 community leaders and citizens in honor of Martin Luther King Day.
“What I know is that American heroes come in both genders, all sexual preferences, all religions, all ethnicities. American heroes come in all colors,” said Morgenthaler. “And today let each one of us rededicate ourselves to the great American hero, the reverend doctor Martin Luther King Junior.”
Benedictine University in Lisle teamed up with College of DuPage to hold their 18th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.
Morgenthaler served as the first woman to train as an equal with men as an officer and has been recognized for her notable military experiences. Today she is a motivational speaker sharing with the audience how important conversation can be.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let the conversations begin,” Morgenthaler said.
Carol Swett serves as an Assistant to the Provost for Intercultural Education at Benedictine. “What she [Morgenthaler] said was so essential and that is that the conversations need to be had,” she said. “In order to know and want to understand each other, we have to have conversations so that we understand who the other is but not only that, but understand who we are.”
For some, the holiday is a day free from work or school, but to those who came out, it was a day to celebrate the life of one of the nation’s past leaders. “Our culture and our world is changing so quickly that we really have to understand what diversity means and Martin Luther King Jr. was able to be one of the world leaders in terms of how that should play out,” said Swett. “And this is one of the events that recognizes how essential that is to our well-being.”
Naperville resident Jay Parker took a message away from the event. “Learn to accept everyone, everyone is not the same, but you’ll learn to like something about them,” he said.
Sydney Vanalstyne was one of the students recognized at the breakfast. “MLK day means service to others and providing for our community,” she said.
A portion of the proceeds benefits the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund at Benedictine. As a former teacher, Cleveland Holmes knows the importance of a good education. “Dr. King has been dead for a number of years, but his spirit still lives and people still carry on the tradition and the dream that he had,” said Holmes. “It just warms my heart when I see young people just being awarded for doing well and going into education and doing things to improve this country.”
The event, one of the largest of its kind in Illinois, was also a time for four selected students, two from Benedictine and two from College of DuPage, to be recognized and awarded for their academic achievements in education.
Before returning to their Monday morning routines, each guest bowed their heads in prayer.
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