Each year for the past three decades, members of the Bentley University community have come together for a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr. The 30th annual MLK breakfast, which took place on January 26, was the biggest celebration yet.
“The Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast has become an important part of the fabric of this institution,” says Dr. Earl Avery, special assistant to the president and ombudsman at Bentley. “For thirty years it has allowed us to gather and celebrate our student leaders and to highlight the good work that is being done by so many in this community to create a more inclusive campus environment.”
President Gloria Larson agrees. “Events like this help make Bentley a better community. They also inspire our students to pursue careers and lives that reflect the values we celebrate today.”
The 400+ students, alumni, staff, faculty and guests in attendance this year enjoyed a gospel choir, heard remarks from four student leaders and were treated to a poignant speech from keynote speaker Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Brooks engaged and empowered the students in the audience. “I see people writing history, as we are living history,” he shared. “There is someone here who’s going to be the next Rosa Parks, the next Martin Luther King Jr. You can be a prophet and a college president, a prophet and an accountant. Today is filled with unspeakable possibilities.”
The Student Speakers
Every year, a handful of prominent Bentley students are selected to speak at the breakfast and share personal reflections on diversity and the legacy and meaning of Dr. King. We caught up with this year’s group—three seniors and one MBA student—after the breakfast to find out about what the event meant to them, their favorite memories from the event and what they took away from it. Here’s what they had to say:
I was deeply humbled and honored to have the opportunity to speak at the MLK Breakfast. Many of the students and mentors I look up to have spoken at the breakfast in the past. I realized I had made a similarly meaningful impact in the Bentley community as the people I look up to.
I was particularly impressed by Rev. Brooks’ inspirational speech. His charismatic poise while speaking was something I have never seen before.
The whole experience made me realize that my college career is coming to an end. In the words of Dr. King, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
What I must focus on now is finishing strong and continuing to pay it forward to those dedicated individuals in the Bentley community, as my mentors did for me.
Read more about Chris in this Entrepreneurs of Bentley article.
Major: Management with a concentration in Human Resources
The MLK Breakfast is a special day I have looked forward to every year. I have been fortunate enough to attend one of the greatest universities in the Northeast region. I do not take it lightly that Dr. King’s dream paved the way for that to happen. To me, being part of such a momentous day meant that I was not only able to be a part of his dream, but to also be a part of my parents’ dream—graduating from college this upcoming spring.
The breakfast broadened my perspective on some of the major global issues we’re facing today, such as discrimination and racism. I truly believe that we all have a voice to make a difference. If we all work towards justice as we preach it, this world will surely become a better place.
Major: Corporate Finance and Accounting
The MLK Breakfast is an important commemoration at Bentley, not only for Martin Luther King Jr., but for all students on campus that have risen above expectations and become leaders. I was beyond honored and humbled by this opportunity because I was able to take part in Bentley history.
This event reaffirmed my belief that everyone can make an impact. Even the smallest steps make a difference. It is our responsibility to educate those around us who have the potential to be the change agents the world needs.
Degree: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Marketing
It was an honor for me to speak at this event because I have personally drawn inspiration from the courage that Martin Luther King Jr. showed in the face of immense hate and adversity. I was bullied in high school and regret not standing up to my bullies sooner. I often think of the courage showcased by Dr. King, who went on to challenge the ideologies and prejudices of the majority and stand up for what is right.
During the breakfast, I was moved by fellow student speaker Lorena Mejia’s stirring speech about overcoming her humble backgrounds and ending up in her dream university and job. She described herself as being privileged to be alive and to be able to do all the things we take for granted. It really put the whole concept of privilege in perspective for me.
It was such a positive experience just to be in that room and witness the brilliance of my fellow Bentley students, and to see people come together to showcase their love and support for anyone who has been marginalized and discriminated against. It felt like a room full of love.
The event also announced the creation of the Dr. Earl L. Avery MLK Leadership Award, newly named in honor of the special assistant to the president and ombudsman at Bentley. The award’s name change recognizes Dr. Avery’s continued commitment to creating a diverse community at Bentley University.
The award is given to Bentley community members who have gone above and beyond at their jobs and whose work with the Bentley community has been consistent with the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. The first two recipients of the newly named award were Dr. Donna Maria Blancero, associate professor of management, and Leslie Doolittle, assistant dean and director of academic support services.
Interested in learning more about Martin Luther King? Read Professor Blancero’s article about what MLK means to Latinos today.