Abington students experience the 'Keeper of the Dream'

It could have been 1963. It appeared as if civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., with his powerful presence and message, was exhorting a room full of college students with “I Have A Dream.” In reality, it was 2012, and the Penn State Abington students were actually being mesmerized by Jim Lucas, a presenter who bears a traffic-stopping resemblance in looks and speech to Dr. King, as he reminded them that the dream is still a work in progress.

“We have come far with civil and women’s rights, but Dr. King would say we have a long way to go,” Lucas said in between reading excerpts from King’s speeches. “Electing an African-American president was historic, but one man is not a panacea for a nation. We still need economic justice, housing and jobs.”

King knew the solution to these enduring problems, Lucas said: service to your fellow man.

“Dr. King’s life was built on service. He believed that anyone can be great because anyone can serve. Service is how you achieve greatness,” he said. “If we help others, then we have not lived in vain. Every little act matters.”

Lucas also told the students that America would be a different place had King survived. “There would not be so many poor people,” he said. “Dr. King wasn’t working just for black people; he wanted to help everyone. The fabric of our social network is torn apart, and I believe he would be working to mend it.

Lucas has spent nearly 30 years traveling the world as “The Keeper of the Dream,” advocating King’s philosophy of nonviolence and equality. He grew up in the Deep South when segregation was illegal but still a reality in the daily life of many African-Americans. Lucas related stories of the humiliations, large and small, that African-Americans experienced. They often lost their jobs as punishment for successfully registering to vote or were forced to take impossible “tests” to prove they were worthy of voting.

Abington students, faculty and staff are honoring King’s legacy with Discover Service Week. The centerpiece is “a day on, not a day off” of service activities throughout the area on Monday, Jan. 16.

Lucas’ visit was the first installment of the Spring 2012 Penn State Abington Lecture Series. The series is sponsored by the Academic Environment Committee, Lares Entertainment and Programming (LEAP) student club and the Division of Student Affairs, and funded by the student activities fee.

Upcoming lectures include:

-- Reggie Love: "Stories from the White House" on Feb. 7. The former aide to President Obama will offer behind the scenes stories from Washington, D.C. A Black History Month event.

-- Bobby Seale: "From the 1960s to the Future" on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. A co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Seale was an architect of one of the most important social change movements in American history. This Black History Month event is open to the public.

-- "Digital Resources Management in Research Libraries: Applying Traditional Resources to Evolving Technologies" on March 15.

-- Jennifer Corriero: "Young People, Technology and the World We Want" on March 20. At the age of 19, Jennifer Corriero was a senior consultant at Microsoft and co-founded TakingIT Global. She focuses on helping young people understand the opportunities in our interconnected world. A Women’s History Month event.

-- "Miss Representation: Screening and Conversation with Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom" at 6:30 p.m. on March 22. This Women’s History Month event is open to the public.

-- "Unbinding Our Lives: A One-Woman Performance" at 6 p.m. on April 11. Actress and Playwright Christina Chan seeks to shatter the subservient “China doll” image often associated with Asian women. This Asian Heritage Month event is open to the public.

Find Penn State Abington on Facebook for more photographs and video of Jim Lucas.