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Educator urges community to assure that children thrive

Support of parents, teachers, pastors and other mentors steered Michael Tate, vice president of equity and diversity at Washington State University since 2004, into higher education.  He knows such support made the difference for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.   So he is committed to be present with and nudge young people and urge the state to provide resources so students of color can have more opportunities for higher education.

Michael Tate, vice president of equity and diversity at Washington State University

Speaking at the Martin Luther King Day commemoration service at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Spokane, he said that from his 35 years in higher education, he knows “education is the great emancipator, freeing people, creating options and opportunities to broaden people’s lives.” 

His mentors stirred his curiosity about King, who also grew up in a loving community that supported his pursuit of higher education.

“King was an average student but had mentors who encouraged him at Morehouse College, so he went on to theological studies in Boston, where he learned about non-violent resistance and civil disobedience from Henry David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes because the United States supported slavery,” Michael said.

 During graduate studies at Boston University, he went to church one Sunday in Philadelphia and heard from Mordecai Johnson, the president of Howard University, about his meeting Mahatma Gandhi in India, and of Gandhi’s efforts to fight the injustice of apartheid in South Africa and colonialism in India with non-violent resistance.

In his growing years, Michael knew that teachers and mentors joined in civil rights actions.  He heard King in 1963 in Detroit when he gave the “I Have a Dream” speech before he gave it for the March on Washington.  Michael stood outside the 26,000-seat auditorium with the overflow crowd of 125,000.

“He lit a fire in me, a fire I still have inside.  We need unity before we can do anything, but unity without action says little.  We need unity to overcome the learning gap,” said Michael who worked in higher education for 30 years at Michigan State University.

“My message as an educator is action.  We live in a global society.  Everyone must learn in order to compete.  We must provide community in which children not only survive but thrive, because the poorest class of people in our society are children.  Do we have social security for children?  We are losing our young people to drugs, AIDS, ignorance and various ‘isms,’” he asserted.

“Not all of us are blessed.  Children are not surviving or prospering.  We are blessed in this state with a powerful system of higher education.  We need a commitment to life-long learning,” he said.

He praised the governor’s education budget because “education lights our future,” he said, pointing out that higher education takes preparation and support, like King and he himself had.

“At my high school of 3,200 students, a man we called ‘Grandpa’ would tell us: ‘Get to class on time.  I’m watching.’”

Like that man, Michael believes, everyone has a role to play in making sure children not only survive but also thrive.

He welcomed Wallace Williams, a WSU alum, coming to him in retirement as an educator and school administrator, saying he wanted to serve.  So he formed POMP or Place of Most Potential, a program to prepare young people not only to thrive but also to prosper in higher education.

“We need action, service and passion,” he said.

For information, call 455-8722.

Mayor invites reflection on comment in article

“Note that I’m not black, but I celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday,” said Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession at both a Sunday afternoon commemoration service and a Monday rally and march in Spokane.  He was referring to one person’s comment in a newspaper article about people who do and do not celebrate the holiday.  One person said he did not celebrate, because he was “not black.”

The mayor celebrates the day because he remembers “the tumultuous 1960s” when King brought a commitment to social justice and nonviolent protest that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.”

On the 21st anniversary of the holiday, Dennis called people to reflect on the value of King’s contributions to society, calling Americans to uphold the ideals of life, liberty, equality and justice, not limiting the worth of people by color or class.

“He made it clear that government has a role to take care of people and people have a responsibility to change the world through non-violence, even civil disobedience,” he added.

More comments by speakers at Martin Luther King Day 2007 in Spokane


Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © February 2007