By Jasmine Lee '18 & Emily Vanuy '18
Dr. Clarence Jones, the former attorney, counsel, speechwriter and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., visited our school last Friday to speak to us about the civil rights movement in connection to Notre Dame’s curriculum centered around justice and leadership.
Having the opportunity to listen to Dr. Clarence Jones share his stories was truly inspiring and we learned crucial lessons from him. One anecdote that deeply impacted us was regarding Dr. Clarence Jones’s first encounter with discrimination. After he was harassed by several older white boys yelling racial slurs while returning home, the very upset and shaken little boy told his mother about the experience. She took him in front of a mirror and asked him the question “What do you see?” After hearing his answer of "I see you and me mama" a couple of times, she told him the reflection showed the most beautiful creature God had created and that she loved him and so did God. Dr. Clarence Jones encouraged us to keep this insight in mind as we carry on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and to remember that we are loved, both by him and by God. This message remains with us, reminding us to firmly demand our rights and the respect for our dignity and to recognize our obligation to do the same for others.
Dr. Jones also shared that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was adamant about opposing the Vietnam War, which he viewed as “either morally right or morally wrong.”.Following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against the Vietnam War, Dr. Jones knew that the question had shifted from whether Dr. King would be killed to when he would be killed. Hearing this greatly moved us, for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to uphold his beliefs and in doing so faced the risk of suffering the violence that he endeavored to stop. He took heed of the principle “silence is betrayal” and understood that allowing the injustice that he witnessed to continue correlated to siding with the perpetrators. Dr. King’s decision exemplified the concept of leading by example. Through sharing this account, Dr. Jones gave us the courage and confidence to act upon our beliefs. We are empowered to stand by what we believe is right, to speak up even when it is easier not to, and to be upstanders.