Lipscomb University hosted a dinner Tuesday night to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In past years this event was a breakfast event, but this year, university officials elected to switch things up, and it turned into a birthday celebration. The dinner honored the life, the legacy and the impact Dr. King continues to have even today.

To open the evening, musical duo Ovation sang Stevie Wonder’s “The Birthday Song” and dedicated it to Dr. King.

Norma Burgess, associate provost for diversity, inclusion and special initiatives, related her excitement about this occasion as well as her hopes for the future of this dinner and what it means, especially today.

“The room looks great, the people look great and I’m ready for a party!” Burgess said. “I expect in years to come for this dinner to get bigger and better.

“I want those who attend tonight’s event to remember they were at Lipscomb, and yes, this is happening at Lipscomb,” she said. “I want them to hear specifically more about Martin Luther King and to see and meet people whom they can aspire to become.”

Many students, faculty and staff, and friends from all over gathered together for this dinner to hear about Dr. King, what he fought for, equality for all people of any color or origin, and how to continue what he started. A panel discussion featured four African-American professionals who shared their perspective on Dr. King and how they relate his words to their lives today.

MaryAnne Howland, founder and CEO of Ibis Communications, moderated the panel discussion. Before it began, she talked about Dr. King and how his wisdom helped her raise her son, who has cerebral palsy. She went on to share why Dr. King’s words were important especially with what is going on in our world today.

“This message comes at such a critical point in time because we have an impeachment trial going on right now of a president who is the antithesis of what the Martin Luther King dream meant for us and our future generations,” Howland said.

Sherron Burgess, senior vice president and chief information security officer at BCD Travel and daughter of Norma Burgess, was a speaker on the panel.

“Sometimes being the only or the few can help spark change which is what Dr. King stood for,” Burgess said. “It’s being able to spark that change wherever you are, doing what you can, moving forward and being an example wherever you are.”

Dr. Lauren Waller, physical therapist at Bethany Rehabilitation Center and a Lipscomb alumna, shared her advice to students on how to move forward like Dr. King.

“Believe in yourself, strive for success — you have to make that choice to be successful,” Waller said. “Once you make that choice to be successful, you are already halfway there, don’t be afraid of a challenge.”

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