Eastern hosted its seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Banquet Wednesday, Jan. 25 in the Keen Johnson ballroom. Students, faculty, alumni and guest speakers celebrated King’s legacy by honoring those on campus who exemplify his mission of service.

Anthony E. Jones, Director of the EKU Multicultural Student Affairs Office, coordinated the event. He said the banquet and other events like it are important so that King’s message is not forgotten.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” Jones said. “We just have to continue to push that positive message that was started in the ‘60s—to continue on to make sure that dream is not forgotten and is completely carried out.”

The room was full as guests enjoyed food and music, as well as a keynote speech from 13th District Ky. State Senator Reginald Thomas (D). Thomas addressed young people specifically, saying that the changes and events going on in America are not the nation’s first “dark times.”

“We’ve had dark days in 1860, when this country was torn apart by war,” Thomas said. “We saw dark days nearly 100 years later when people couldn’t get to work. We had thousands and thousands in soup lines when people were hungry, when people were homeless—due to The Depression.”

Thomas’s speech was met with a standing ovation. He was followed by EKU Executive Vice President Laurie Carter, who offered thanks to King “for his work, for his legacy, for his dream.”

“I hope that each one of you takes with you tonight the message that he’s placed in our hearts and use it to encourage others, and to move us forward in positive ways,” Carter said. “It’s what Dr. King would want.”

Carter’s speech was followed by Omar Salinas-Chacón, a political science major, who announced the night’s award recipients. Diamond Richards was awarded the Student Community Service Award, and the honorees were Reniesha Wassman, Noe Aguazul and Kristen Gibson. Dr. Roger Cleveland received the Staff/Faculty Community Service Award, an the honorees were Dr. Salome Nnoromele, Dr. Bryan Cole and Dr. Minh Ngyuen. The Alumnus Community Service Award was awarded to Dr. Sarah Elaine Farris.

The evening’s events also included a singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem.” The EKos a cappela group was scheduled to perform as well, but was unable to due to sudden complications.

Again, Thomas reminded the younger people in the crowd that the events of today are not the end of the world, and we must look forward to better times.

“What we’ve learned through our history is that even in those dark times, Americans prevail, and America will prevail this time,” Thomas said. “And we’ll prevail because there’s always a better day ahead.”

Click here to see a video summarizing the event.