Posts tagged ‘Martin Luther King’

Ali on Campus


In 1969, at the height of racial tensions in the country following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali—by this time stripped of his world heavyweight title due to his opposition to the Vietnam War and subsequent refusal to enlist in the U.S. Army—spoke to a “riveted” Penn State audience, questioning whether equality could ever truly be achieved.

“By nature, black Americans and white Americans will never get along,” Ali said, according to an article the following day in the Daily Collegian. “They’re opposites, like yes and no. If it’s your opposite, it’s your opposition­—then it’s your opponent.”

The only peaceful solution to the racial crisis, he asserted, was total separation of the races. “This is not hatred,” he added. “It’s just nature.”

With the death of Ali over the weekend at age 74, remembrances have come from far and wide as those touched by the former champ grieve fondly and openly of a larger than life figure who was outspoken and brash, unapologetic and committed. Those who were among the reported 4,000 at Rec Hall on May 23, 1969, no doubt remember it well.

Among the students there that night was Larry Rubenstein ’71, a sophomore at the time who today is an attorney in New York City.

“It was quite a night,” recalls Rubenstein, who we reached by phone on Monday. Rubenstein was an organizer of the Colloquy series, an event that brought Ali, activist politician Ralph Nader and controversial cartoonist Al Capp to campus for a weekend of speeches and panel discussions on issues ranging from the the racial divide and Vietnam War to women’s rights and the Middle East.

Ali, then 27, focused on racism, calling it “America’s worst problem,” reinforcing the notion that the only way to maintain peace was through keeping the races separate. Says Rubenstein: “He focused on a nonviolent solution, but he had a real question about how you solved that problem in the face of many in the white population that were not necessarily embracing the advancement of African Americans.”

“It was a very direct and pointed speech, and a speech that had the student population, which at the time very much wanted to see continued advancement in civil rights, just riveted.”

Rubenstein, captured in a Collegian photo with Ali, was among a handful of students who had the chance to meet with Ali before and after the speech. “He was so well respected as a human being and as someone who really helped the county focus on racial problems.”

Though the speech was largely consistent and in the mood of the climate and attitude toward Civil Rights in America, it was controversial in questioning whether integration would work, Rubenstein says. “Yes, I think it was controversial in the way he was questioning the possibility of integration, but he had such humanity and humanity for all human beings—no matter what race—that what he really believed would be the ultimate solution, I don’t know.”

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor







June 6, 2016 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 20, 2014

A leader lost: A bit of news we missed last week, but which seems appropriate to share on the day we observe the life and work of Martin Luther King: A memorial service was held Saturday for Thelma Price, a longtime Penn State administrator and civil rights activist who died on Jan. 8. She was 88. She came to the university in 1964 to serve as assistant dean of students at New Kensington, and later served as assistant VP of student affairs at University Park. The first charter president of the State College chapter of the NAACP, she was also a vocal advocate for minority students, earning the nickname “Mom” for her tireless work on their behalf.


Happiness and heartbreak: Sunday night was a memorable one for three former Nittany Lions, although one that NaVorro Bowman ’09 no doubt wishes he could forget. Bowman, the San Francisco 49ers linebacker whom calls “arguably the best defensive player in the league this season,” went down in gruesome fashion in the fourth quarter of the Niners’ eventual 23-17 loss to Seattle. Afterward, his all-pro teammate, Patrick Willis, told reporters, “If he doesn’t get defensive player of the year, I don’t know what they go by. Most important, I just pray he’s all right.”

On the much brighter side, the Seahawks duo of Michael Robinson ’04 and Jordan Hill ’13 are going to the Super Bowl, marking the 43rd time in 48 years that at least one Penn Stater is on a roster for the big game.

BOT wrap: Our Lori Shontz ’91, ’13g has everything you need to know from last week’s Board of Trustees meetings. You can read her last two posts from the sessions here and here.

Times up: Sunday’s New York Times carried a couple of pieces of note for Penn Staters. Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology and arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist, wrote an oped for the Sunday Review in which he talks about embracing his role as a public advocate for awareness and action on climate change. On a very different topic, over in the Business section, there’s a profile of Ross Ulbricht ’09g, who is facing federal charges of computer hacking, drug trafficking, and money laundering as the alleged mastermind behind the online black market Silk Road. It’s disturbing, fascinating stuff.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm 2 comments

Off to India

No, not me. But one of our alums, Robert Pilon ’01, is lucky enough to be part of a delegation leaving for India today on a State Department-sponsored tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to that country.

The group includes such famous folks as Martin Luther King III, former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis, and jazz great Herbie Hancock. The trip—the first diplomatic mission of the Obama administration—will involve a little of everything: visits to historic sites, meetings with the Indian president and prime minister, master classes in jazz, and two free concerts. The concerts will be carried on MTV Asia and CNN International.

Our man Pilon is involved because he’s a VP at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, one of the organizers of the event. He’s planning to keep a journal for us, and we’re hoping to include an article about his experience in our May-June issue, if all goes well.

The Rev. Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta, spent a month in India in February 1959 to learn more about Mahatma Gandhi and nonviolent social change. It’s widely thought that what Dr. King learned on that trip heavily influenced the course of the U.S. civil rights movement. More about all of that can be found here and here.

Tina Hay, editor

February 12, 2009 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

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