'Each of us is a leader,' Hrabowski says at JHU ceremony honoring legacy of MLK Jr.

Image caption: Freeman Hrabowski

The Johns Hopkins community gathered Friday to celebrate the civil and human rights and community service legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. A packed Turner Auditorium paid tribute to King's memory and heard words of inspiration from a leader in the fields of education and civil rights.

Image caption: Levi Watkins Jr.

Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke about leadership and about his experience as a child in 1960s Birmingham, Ala. A video of the event is available online.

Retired Johns Hopkins cardiac surgeon Levi Watkins Jr., former associate dean for postdoctoral programs and the commemoration's founder, hosted the program. Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, welcomed Hrabowski. They congratulated this year's recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards, which are presented annually to members of the Johns Hopkins community whose volunteer and community work honors King's legacy.

Hrabowski recounted a story of being arrested as a 12-year-old protesting the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four young girls. As he and other children sat in the Birmingham jail for days, they heard King speaking outside.

"All of our parents were outside the jailhouse," Hrabowski recalled. "And Dr. King said to all these children who were behind bars, 'Stay strong. For what you do this day will have an impact.'"

Hrabowski reflected on King's legacy and his message.

"The message of King must be that each of us is a leader," he said, "and that we must think about how we treat people of all types. We must be supportive of people who are different from ourselves and appreciate them."

In its 32nd year, the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration honors the Nobel Peace Prize winner's legacy of nonviolent activism and community service. Hrabowski joined a distinguished list of past speakers that includes Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte Jr., Stevie Wonder, James Earl Jones, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King.