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Lecture discusses race relations, adversity

February 16, 2001

A positive spin on the term racial profiling was the core of the Rev. Joseph Lowery’s speech Thursday, part of Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey, a visiting minority faculty lecture series sponsored by the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“We didn’t have to have a violent revolution to overcome our oppression,” Lowery said before his speech. “That’s a good kind of racial profiling.”

Along with Martin Luther King Jr., Lowery founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He is currently the chairperson of the National Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of major black advocacy organizations.

Lowery explained to the audience of nearly 200 what the black presence in America has meant to the country.

“We have demonstrated the power of the human spirit to translate adversity into opportunity,” he said during his 45-minute speech.

He stressed how important it is for people to not only embrace their history, but to learn from it.

“If you don’t know where you came from, you won’t know when someone is taking you back,” he said.

Lowery said the experiences of blacks have proven people can rise above whatever others try to put in their way.

“When life gives you lemons, take the water of hope, the sugar of faith and stir it up,” he said. “We have taken those things that were meant to demean and dehumanize us and turned them into opportunities.”

He shared with the audience some words of wisdom that he passes along to the young children he meets.

“I tell them, ‘I don’t like you whining about what you haven’t got,’” he said. “Stir up what you have got.”

He said blacks have demonstrated, individually and collectively, what it really means to love a country.

“Authentic patriotism is not smothering a country,” he said. “It’s challenging it. We loved the country so much we wouldn’t tolerate its injustices.”

He said people shouldn’t be afraid to appeal to the consciences of others.

“There is a reservoir of good in most people,” he said.

Sandy Kilbourn, executive director of external programs in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, said she was extremely satisfied with Lowery’s speech.

“His presence has just been inspiring,” she said.

Brant Wheaton, a crop and soil sciences freshman, said he found Lowery’s speech inspirational.

“I really loved it,” he said. “His views and the way he told them kept my interest. The stories he told really tied everything together and brought his message across.”

Computer engineering freshman Jonathan Griswold said he also enjoyed Lowery’s speech and his use of anecdotes.

“I especially liked how he emphasized the importance of remembering our history,” he said.

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