APU joined the Azusa community in celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in the annual event, “Hands Across Azusa,” on Sunday, January 17. Traditionally, APU students march from Seven Palms to Azusa City Hall on foot and join Azusa citizens for an afternoon of inspirational speeches and performances. In the past, the event has included performances by APU’s Gospel Choir and the APU Step Team. However, due to weather conditions, this year’s “Hands Across Azusa” had to be modified by cutting short a performance by the Gospel Choir and canceling the Step Team’s performance altogether.
Despite the inclement weather, Azusa Mayor Joseph Rocha noticed a strong positive attitude throughout the crowd, among which he was grateful to see approximately 70 APU community members. “As always, it was wonderful to see the support of APU students and staff at this event. Even if the weather wasn’t the best, the spirit [of the event] was alive and well,” Rocha said.
In addition to the outdoor celebration, APU welcomed renowned American literature scholar, celebrated author, and UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature Eric Sundquist to give a lecture entitled “Martin Luther King’s Dream” on Tuesday, January 19. “It is a tribute to APU’s growing commitment to scholarship that we hosted someone of [Sundquist’s] caliber on our campus, and I was pleased with the turnout in spite of the torrential downpour that day,” said Mark Eaton, Ph.D., professor, Department of English. As director of the Center for Research on Ethics and Values, Eaton both coordinated and officiated the event, which drew a large crowd to Munson Chapel that evening.
During the hour-long address, Sundquist discussed King and his legacy, and acknowledged the presidency of Barack Obama as a major fulfillment of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Using the hymn, “My Country Tis of Thee,” performed by Aretha Franklin at Obama’s 2009 inauguration ceremony, as a common link between significant events in the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, Sundquist detailed the enormous impact that King has had on Obama’s leadership style. He ended with a comparison of the two men, indicating that Obama provides hope for this generation just as King provided hope for his.