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Hesburgh picture unveiled

Maureen Mullen | Friday, April 28, 2006

Although the walls of LaFortune are decked with many pictures of illustrious Notre Dame athletes and legends, nothing quite parallels the image that hangs there now.

Thursday afternoon, the Multicultural Affairs Committee of Student Senate organized an unveiling ceremony of a special photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. linking arms with a young Father Theodore Hesburgh, University president emeritus.

The gathering, held in the Dooley Room of LaFortune, celebrated not only the unveiling of the picture but also King’s legacy, Hesburgh’s work in civil rights and the role of Notre Dame as an academic institution to educate and promote equality between people of all races and creeds.

“We are holding hands for what was America’s greatest need,” Hesburgh said.

“This photo is a symbol and a reminder for our University community,” former student body president Dave Baron said.

He also spoke of the significance of hanging the picture in Lafortune.

“The LaFortune Student Center is pretty much the central pole for student life on campus,” Baron said. “It is where we study, where we eat, where we talk and hang out. It is where we relate.”

Chandra Johnson, director of Cross-Cultural Ministry and associate director of Campus Ministry, led the ceremony that unveiled the picture from its covering and blessed it with holy water.

Johnson said President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Hesburgh to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

During a time when clergy members were criticized for not speaking in support of civil rights and not speaking out against racism and hate, “the President of the University of Notre Dame stood with Dr. King and moved this country forward,” Johnson said.

Hesburgh was present throughout the ceremony and gave a keynote address after the picture was unveiled.

Hesburgh explained that the picture was taken more than 40 years ago during a prayer service at Soldier Field when King visited Chicago.

Hesburgh discussed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that he, as a member of the commission, helped to create.

He counted the Act along with the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation as the three most important American documents.

“I would hope that there would be more minority students at Notre Dame,” Hesburgh said. “We are working on that.”

Turning to the picture, he said, “We can create in this spot some sense of what it is to be a child of God. When God created us all, he wasn’t worried about color.”