Activist speaks about MLK

Photo by Nick Faulkner

Photo by Nick Faulkner

On Tuesday night, nationally recognized actor and speaker Hill Harper spoke in honor of ECU’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Wright Auditorium.

Harper discussed “Visualizing the Dream,” a speech on projecting King’s speech “I Have a Dream” in today’s world.

Both Harper and King share a passion for change. Harper sees King as, “someone that exemplifies courage, humanity and is a warrior for peace, and for me, that is a challenge to do more.”
Service was one of Harper’s main talking points of the evening.

His lecture aligned directly with the university’s motto of servire, which means to serve. Harper said one of his favorite MLK quotes is, “Everyone can be great because anybody can serve.”
Encouraging one another is something Harper believes would help resolve issues around the world.

“I believe that unless all of us can figure out ways to uplift each other and uplift ourselves, we can’t solve the huge problems in the world today,” said Harper.

Director of the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center Melissa Haithcox-Dennis also agrees that service was an essential part of King’s vision. She said that the university is hoping to adopt MLK’s mentality on serving.

“We’re really trying to align ECU’s mission of serving with MLK’s dream, where we serve and help others and try to make this world a better place,” Haithcox-Dennis said.

Similar to MLK, Harper is an advocate for change. In addition to being a Harvard Law School graduate, Harper is a humanitarian, philanthropist and actor. He is best known for his starring role in the television show “CSI: NY,” in which he played Dr. Sheldon Hawkes. Harper is currently starring on the show “Covert Affairs.”

Chancellor Steve Ballard and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Virginia Hardy greeted Harper with a small reception in the Spillman building before he spoke in Wright Auditorium.

“We were excited to have Mr. Harper with us as we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr… We think it’s important that we remember Dr. King so we can bring his dream to fruition,” said Hardy.

Having Harper as a guest speaker was ultimately a student choice. Fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha desired to bring in Harper, a fellow fraternity brother.

“A group of men from Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity really wanted to bring Hill since it’s probably about two years in the making, so to have the students choosing a speaker for the annual MLK celebration was really important,” said Haithcox-Dennis.
Alpha Phi Alpha was the main sponsor of the event, with the university’s Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Equity and Diversity also being sponsors.

In addition, Harper was welcomed to the university as a role model for students to make an impact in other people’s lives.

“He’s just a very active participant in helping other people to do well and to have the same opportunities as everyone,” said Haircos-Dennis. “Young people who may come from a more disadvantaged background, socioeconomic status… Hill tries to encourage them to get an education.”

Harper is also the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including “Letters to a Young Brother” and “Letters to a Young Sister.” In addition, he created the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering, encouraging and inspiring underrepresented and often disadvantaged youth to succeed. Harper often travels around the nation inspiring young kids to make a difference in the world.

This writer can be contacted at

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