“What are you doing for others?”

That’s the challenge that UNCG Chancellor Dr. Frank Gilliam presented to a sold-out crowd of nearly 900 people during his keynote address at Greensboro’s 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

Using one of King’s most famous quotes, Gilliam recognized the impact that the city of Greensboro has had on the national civil rights movement, while urging attendees that there is still work to be done.

“At their best, the people of Greensboro have made significant strides toward answering Dr. King’s call to action,” Gilliam said. “But, we have much farther to go and more to do.”

Photo of SGA President Brittany Hudson and Chancellor Gilliam at the city's MLK Jr. Memorial Breakfast at Koury Convention Center

UNCG Student Government Association President Brittany Hudson and UNCG Chancellor Dr. Frank Gilliam at the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

Gilliam argued that the lack of racial progress is not the result of moral failure, but of cognitive failure.

“People just don’t know how to think about race,” he said. “When people don’t know how to think, they default to what they think they know, not what is true.”

He continued by encouraging attendees to change the conversation about race by focusing on three core values: shared fate, opportunity and ingenuity.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,” Gilliam said, quoting King. “Dr. King tells us that progress is made by understanding our shared fate. You can’t just be concerned about what happens on your side of town.”

Gilliam talked about the American ideal of opportunity for all and the systemic breakdowns that have left many groups behind, especially when it comes to education.

With regard to ingenuity and innovation, Gilliam shared a quote from King: “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

He ended his speech with a message of hope and encouragement.

“Every day I’m surrounded by young people who inspire me with their enthusiasm and passion and commitment,” he said. “They really are trying to make this world a better place. Dr. King’s legacy lives on through those young people, but we have to till the soil for them.”

The event, sponsored by the Human Relations Commission, also featured artistic performances by students and brief remarks by Mayor Nancy Vaughan. UNCG Student Government Association President Brittany Hudson served as the mistress of ceremonies.

UNCG will continue to celebrate the legacy of King with the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration this Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. at N.C. A&T’s Harrison Auditorium. A pre-event reception with keynote speaker Dr. Julianne Malveaux will take place at UNCG’s Alumni House from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.

The pre-event reception is open to all UNCG and N.C. A&T students, faculty and staff, and the evening celebration is free and open to the public. For more information, visit intercultural.uncg.edu.


Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Morgan Glover, University Relations