Multicultural Affairs

Willamette students get personal

Pledge in honor of Dr. King

They offer their thoughts about what they will do to show respect for others

BY TIMOTHY ALEX AKIMOFF
Statesman Journal

January 16, 2007

Willamette University students wrote their own pledges to adhere to the common belief that all people are valued. Volunteers handed students small beige cards saying, "From this day forward, I will make a personal pledge to:"

"... become more politically involved," Kiri Dyken, 22, said Monday after signing the Willamette Pledge, written to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "I get interested but not as involved as I should."

Dyken signed the pledge and explained what she would write on the handout.

"I don't read the newspaper as much as I should. I don't listen to talk radio," Dyken said. "There is so much apathy and disinterest. I myself feed into it with the attitude that it's been done; nothing's changed."

The idea is to make it real to each person, the university staff said.

"It's to make it more personal," Karen Wood, the assistant chaplain at Willamette University, said of why students were being asked to make their own pledges. "It will remind them of the commitment they made."

Staffers and students wrote a new Willamette Pledge to replace the Birmingham Pledge, commonly used in public celebrations for King.

Changes to the annual King celebrations came on the heels of protests that occurred at Willamette after a video from a 2006 Halloween party was shown on the Web site YouTube.

According to the university's Web site, students outraged by offensive costumes at the party formed student groups and began organizing protests geared toward making the campus aware of the need for more diversity and understanding.

The protests led to a discussion among staffers and student groups.

"The protests that followed were not constructive," Dyken said. "The faculty could have helped. Instead, the students tried to get professors to cancel classes or students to walk out."

Wood said the changes to the university's King celebrations came about because of the realization of students' need for a more direct discussion of what is happening and what is relevant today.

"I don't know what they (students) get in grade school now, but it seems like it's packaged," Wood said. "We want to break that."

Times have changed but social injustice still is prevalent, Wood said.

"What does it mean to have voter roles purged?" Wood asked, citing an example of social injustice in the U.S. and elsewhere. "Today, it is (about) understanding power and privilege and how they work."

Willamette student Richard Feredinos, 23, said he sees social injustice all around him.

Feredinos works in support of an organization called International Justice Mission, which helps victims of social injustice who cannot rely on local authorities for help.

The sex-slave trade and indentured servitude are two of the things IJM works toward eradicating worldwide. Feredinos said.

"People can become apathetic," Feredinos said. "That's why we try to raise awareness."

The action portion of the Willamette Pledge caught students' attention Monday.

"I will strive daily to educate myself through experiences and interactions that enrich and examine my personal beliefs about others, while encouraging our community to do the same.

"I will, through my actions and my words, respect and support the many identities of Willamette community members.

"I will give of myself in an effort to better our community, in honor of this pledge, and in recognition of that fact that, 'not unto ourselves are we born.'"

Willamette staffers and students hope to spread that realization of a person's role in the community.

takimoff@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6750

Akimoff, Timothy Alex. "Willamette students get personal with pledge in honor of Dr. King." Statesman Journal 16 Jan. 2007. 23 Jan. 2007 http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070116/NEWS/701160328/1001.