Diane Nash urges Notre Dame community to ‘choose an issue that moves you’ at MLK Celebration Luncheon


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Walk the Walk Week at the University of Notre Dame continued Monday, Jan. 20, with the fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Luncheon at the Joyce Center.

Sponsored by the Office of the President and the Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, the luncheon included remarks from Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., as well as a Q&A session with civil rights leader Diane Nash.

Walk the Walk Week offers students, faculty and staff, as well as the community at large, the opportunity to celebrate the diversity that exists on campus and to reflect on ways to make Notre Dame even more welcoming and inclusive.

Rev. Hugh R. Page Jr., vice president and associate provost for undergraduate affairs and professor of theology and Africana studies, emceed the event.

“Our hope is that today’s luncheon will allow all who are part of the Notre Dame family to think about how to be effective stewards of Dr. King’s legacy,” Rev. Page said.

Asmaa El Messnaoui, program director at the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, delivered the invocation. Aaron Benavides, a junior studying political science and theology, delivered the benediction.

Father Jenkins, in his opening remarks, thanked Nash for participating in the event and encouraged students, faculty and staff to “listen and be inspired by Nash’s selfless resolute courage so that we might become more sanctified and holy.”

The Q&A session featured Nash; Darren Davis, professor of political science; Lia Acri, class of 2021; Kenzie Isaac, class of 2020; Kaleem Minor, class of 2020; and Libby Moyer, class of 2021.

Opening the Q&A session, Nash said, “These kinds of events are important. I think they make a community healthier when people come together and experience fellowship for a worthwhile purpose. And I think recalling Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement and its importance in our history is definitely a reason to come together. 

“We need to not only honor the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr., but we need to realize that there is a lot of social change needed in this country,” Nash said. “Social change takes a lot of work and it takes courage.”

Replying to a question about getting youth of today focused on the civil rights struggle and the continuing battle forward, Nash said, “You have to start something to give people to join. Choose an issue that moves you that you are passionate about, because that passion comes from the same source that created your life.”

Other topics of the Q&A included self-love and self-care, the role of white allies, the role of faith and the impact of being a young woman involved in the civil rights movement.

“Women were very active in the civil rights movement,” Nash said. “Women did everything that men did. It hadn’t occurred to us that the same things that we were saying about justice and equality in race were applicable to gender.”

Nash closed the event, saying, “As you go through life you will have decisions to make. My advice would be, always make a decision that will make you admire and respect the person you see in the mirror.”

Notre Dame suspended classes during the luncheon. More than three thousand students, faculty and staff attended the event. Others watched online or from remote locations around campus.

Walk the Walk Week continues through Friday, with events including lectures, discussions, a movie screening and a social concerns fair.

For more information, visit https://diversity.nd.edu/mlk.

Originally published by Chloe McCotter at news.nd.edu on January 21, 2020.