‘Fulfillment of the dream is right here’

Steve Bushong

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones tells students to accept themselves, discover their live’s callings


Fifth-term U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones spoke politically, poetically and personally yesterday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in the Student Center Ballroom.

She began her speech by saying that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t just a civil rights leader.

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“King was a thinker, a doer, a motivator, a preacher, a teacher, an adviser, and activist, an African, an agitator, a mover and a shaker,” Jones said, accelerating her speech and raising her voice with each word. “He dreamed so we could visualize what we could be.”

Following with the day’s theme, “Toward the Dream,” Jones said there has been recent progress toward the dream’s realization. She recited a long list of congressional committee and sub-committee heads who are black or female.

Her speech then adopted a political tone.

Jones’ Politics

Jones often used lines of poetry that complemented her own thoughts, as she did when recalling the importance of May 4, such as using King’s “Beyond Vietnam.”

“(May 4) ignited the nation to demand an end to an unjust war,” Jones said. “We can’t afford to sit and be silent,” she said alluding to the war in Iraq.

Jones said the army called her yesterday morning saying Michael Wiggins, 26, of Cleveland, was killed in Iraq Jan. 23. He was a resident of Jones’ congressional district.

“We don’t need a surge in troops,” Jones said. “We need a surge in truth.”

She said she doesn’t spend her time hating, as it takes too much energy, but she said it is her job to tell the truth.

“And that’s what King’s platform was — truth,” she said.

Jones’ Thoughts

Jones combined humor with varying tempo and volume to draw in her audience, which filled much of the ballroom’s seating.

She said education is needed and decried those who “sit on their bums.”

“You have to finish (school),” Jones said. “You have to, on your own, figure out what you’re going to do.”

She said students should be having fun in college, but they should also be figuring out what to do in life.

To illustrate her thoughts, Jones referred to King’s 1956 speech “Facing the Challenge of a New Age.”

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted,” recited Jones.

“If it fits you to be a sweeper, be a sweeper, but be the best one,” she said

Jones said the aim of a college is to open doors for students.

“King was a visionary, but the fulfillment of the dream is right here,” she said.

For the Students

Toward the end of her speech, Jones mentioned the rising cost of college and the huge debt many students take on after graduating — a prohibitory factor for many who want to attend college.

During an interview following the speech, Jones said students should use their votes to change issues important to them, and they shouldn’t stop there.

“If we’re going to have an educated society in America, college students need to be screaming. They need to be demonstrating and they need to be talking to their members of congress,” Jones said.

Preston Mitchum, student senator for academic affairs, attended the entire day-long event. He said Jones was one of the event’s highlights, along with a panel discussion on how close America is to fulfilling King’s dream.

“It was a rewarding experience,” said Mitchum, who aspires to be a congressman.

Junior psychology major Taisha Cromity and her friend, Erin Mims, graduate student in communication studies, attended the event together.

“I think it was motivating,” Cromity said. “(Jones) is a captivating speaker.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].