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Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Speaker


Dr. King Honored by Rabbi in Annual MLK Celebration

Sarah Barb

Rabbi Ben Kamin was the guest lecturer here at Roanoke College for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Sunday January 27 in the Wortmann Ballroom. He is Author of the book “Room 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel” and “Nothing Like Sunshine”. The subject of his talk was about how he experienced the day that Dr. King was assassinated and his knowledge of that day.

Rabbi Kamin was a very intriguing speaker, very good at the art of storytelling.  He spoke of his experiences in high school with racial inequality which he documents in “Nothing Like Sunshine”. On April 4, 1968 the day  Dr. King was assassinated , young Kamin went to school to find a group of his African American classmates sitting on the front lawn, his best friend Clifton, stood up from the crowd and told him “this is not for you!”. Kamin didn’t understand why he said that until years later. He had realized it was like this group of people had lost their Moses.  Kamin went home to find his parent’s weeping, for the loss of a great freedom fighter. Kamin’s parents were some of the first residents of the State of Israel so they felt some kinship with the Civil rights movement.

He reinforced the idea of Dr. King being a man and not a legend.  King suffered many issues and the greatest of those was depression and fear, which he conquered in his “mountain top speech” April 3, 1968, the night before his death. Kamin said, that night he “preached the fear out of death”.

The next day, King was light-hearted all day and he was shot with a smile on his face. Kamin noted that some of greatest leaders are ascribed their role, they do not choose to lead. It was like this with the biblical leader Moses, he did not want to be a leader he was chosen to lead. When the bus boycott started with Rosa Parks, the African American community needed some to lead that did not have a criminal record, so they chose a young preacher who did not have any run-ins with the law.

Dr. King was the type of person that turned scripture into ethics and that was what guided him through the trials he faced for the sake of equality. King’s “activism was his faith life,” said Kamin. Later he stated that King was a “man of ideas” and had “great courage” despite his many troubles. The lesson that all people can learn from Dr. King is that perfection is not need be great and that sometimes greatness finds you if you stick to your principles.