Holder caps Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Share on Facebook
Tweet on Twitter

Former Attorney General Eric Holder visited the Malcolm Field Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 25, as the keynote speaker for SVSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

The event was a part of the eighth annual Great Lakes Bay Regional MLK Jr. Celebration and was a collaborative effort between businesses, chambers of commerce and community foundations.

“We miss him in Washington, and over the last couple of weeks, we’ve really missed him,” said Michigan’s Fifth District Congressman Dan Kildee.

Holder answered questions candidly from Saginaw County Chief Judge Terry Clark over the course of an hour in front of a rapt audience and spoke about the current political climate.

“This idea of putting up walls is inconsistent with who we say we are,” he said of President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall across the United States’ border with Mexico.

Holder, the first African American to hold the position of attorney general, was nominated by President Barack Obama and took office in 2009. In April 2015, he stepped down.

Over the years, he has earned multiple awards and praise for his accomplishments in both the civic and professional realm.

Those include the NAACP Chairman’s Award, George Washington University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal for Outstanding Service in Human Rights, and Robert F. Kennedy Justice Prize.

During a media availability event preceding the keynote speaker series, Holder said unity is important to focus on to achieve positive outcomes.

“We are stronger when we work together,” he said.

Director of Media and Community Relations J.J. Boehm has said SVSU worked to bring Holder to campus for MLK since last summer.

“He has a rich history of public service, including six years as U.S. Attorney General, serving as our nation’s top law enforcement official,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to share his lessons and perspectives with the campus community and people throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

According to Boehm, learning is not restricted to the classroom, and SVSU strives to bring speakers to campus that will enrich students’ college experience while making national figures accessible.

“It also supports what students are learning in their classes,” he said. “I suspect students and professors in criminal justice, political science and other disciplines will have more thoughtful class discussions this semester thanks to Eric Holder’s appearance on campus.”

The event began with a rendition of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” from the Bethel Voices and was followed by an introduction from emcee and WNEM TV-5 news anchor Colette Boyd.

Other notable guests onstage included SVSU President Donald Bachand and SVSU English professor Eric Gardner, who introduced a segment in which area students read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Afterward, the winners of the 2017 MLK Drum Major Award were presented, and each was given an introduction and award.

Holder spoke about his formative years and relayed a story in which he bawdily asked boxer Muhammad Ali, while he was then known as Cassius Clay, if he was afraid of facing Sonny Liston, whom Clay had just defeated for his first world title.

Balling a fist, Ali stuck his hand in Holder’s face and asked, “What do you think?”

Holder’s anecdote summed up one of the evening’s messages: while challenge may be ahead, one must be confident and ready for challenge.

Paired with the message of unity, the audience of about 1,000 people was left with the impression that togetherness is absolutely essential to grasp progress.

“Change is possible if we can work together, and if we can dream together, then we can make things happen,” he said.