The Lasting Message of MLK


On January 18, America celebrated the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the civil rights movement in the 1950’s, and whose movement and message still resonate today.

After a day of workshops, and a keynote address from Award-winning poet Roger Reeves, The Willistonian asked the Williston community what MLK day means to them.

Andrew Shelffo, Chief Information Officer and English teacher, recalled his favorite King quote: “every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“For me, MLK Day gives me a chance to reflect on how much potential we all have inside of us to grow and become better people,” Shelffo explained. “We don’t live in a vacuum and we can’t do everything by ourselves. We need to rely on others and help others in order to become better people and in order to be part of a better society. Dr. King forced Americans to confront its racism in ways we hadn’t before, and he did it through non-violent means, which is remarkable.”

Shelffo continued that he tries to follow in MLKs aspirations of “believ[ing] in possibility, and that we will get to the promised land.”

Sophomores Louisa Coughlin, from Amherst, Mass., and Carly Goodman, from Longmeadow, Mass., both said MLK day is “a day to reflect” and educate ourselves.

“I like to look back on things that he spoke about and apply it to the present to see how we can move forward,” Louisa said.

Melissa Baseman, a senior from Sao Paulo, explains her native traditions. “In Brazil we celebrate similarly, but only for a month.”

“For what I have seen during my experience at Williston, it was an opportunity to talk about racism,” Melissa continued. “It is a day to celebrate Black lives, not only MLK. I find it odd to set only a certain amount of time for recognition.”

Matt Porter, Psychology teacher and coach, said that as a Black man, MLK’s messages ring loudly with him.

“First and foremost, it is a day to remember one of the most influential people in this country’s history,” said Porter. “Second, I think it is a day for everyone to self-reflect and really think about the ideas that MLK wrote and spoke about.

Porter said MLK was “someone who just wanted to see change in the US and a lot of the problems that he highlighted are still relevant today. Everyone needs to really look at how they can do their part to help bring change to the country and the world.”

“As a Black man,” Porter added, “it is a day where I look at who I am and how I can embody his beliefs, because I want to be able to accomplish things that he fought for me to be able to do.”

Abby Booth, a new junior from Beverly, Mass., said MLK Day is “a time to reflect on Black lives and improving racism within this country.”

Similarly, senior Grace O’Keefe, of Branford Conn., elaborated that MLK day is a time “to think about how we can do better, we as in the community and ourselves.”

Senior class president Adam Thistlethwaite, from Canada, doesn’t celebrate MLK day in his home country, but in the four years he’s been in the States, he said the message of MLK Day has become part of his life.

“My MLK Day has become more personal,” Thislethwaite said. “At first, I used it as a time to analyze the progress made, but this year, I shifted my focus on how Dr. King’s words are applicable today.”