Dick Gregory gives keynote address for EMU MLK Day celebration


Comedian, humanitarian activist and civil rights activist Dick Gregory graced the stage Monday at the Student Center Auditorium to speak in celebration of MLK Day at Eastern Michigan University.

The event not only filled the auditorium but also had an overflow of people in room 310 of the Student Center eager to see Gregory speak.

The speech had a mix of both humorous and serious topics, keeping the tone upbeat.

“He was hilarious throughout the whole thing, it kept me entertained while he also kept me thinking,” audience member Daniel Clark said. “Dick Gregory was a great keynote speaker for a day like today.”

Gregory spoke on many different topics, but the main message was clear throughout – “anyone can be Dr. King.”

“Dr. King was a turtle; hard on the outside, soft on the inside and willing to stick his neck out,” Gregory said.

Gregory told several different stories ranging from biblical stories like the story of Adam and Eve, prehistoric times and just talking directly about what he witnessed during the civil rights movement.

He talked about Rosa Parks, similar to that of “anyone can be Dr. King.” He talked about how Rosa Parks was not the only one to refuse moving her seat on a bus but that she almost did not do it. What kept Rosa Parks motivated was Emmet Till and his story.

“You can make a difference; drop all your hatred and your meanness, it’s that simple,” Gregory said.

Gregory also spoke on the priorities in today’s society. People are more concerned with education over liberation or going to Disneyland rather than visiting the grave of Dr. King.

“I don’t believe we have gone to the point of no return yet, but we are getting there,” Gregory said.

He touched on the riots that ensued after the Ohio State champion game and comparing them to the riots following the death of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, saying that he was upset that riots over a game were permissible but riots about life and injustice get shut down.

“I thought the point he made about the riots was one of the most important messages of his entire speech,” audience member Julie Simpson said.

Ending on an inspirational note to the students and younger members of the audience, Gregory spoke of the change that can and needs to happen.

“We have left you a mess young folks, you have a mess to clean up,” Gregory said.

He pushed the message of anyone being able to be like Dr. King, that it is up to the youth and that the times are calling for change. Though we are not in the 60s, there are still injustices facing us in 2015 and it is up to everyone to fight for what is right.

Gregory ended his speech simply: “I cannot thank Dr. King enough, he is the reason I can speak before you all today.”

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