Dr. John Silvanus Wilson Jr. highlights key lessons we could learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Dr. John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse College, the first privately-established liberal arts college dedicated to the education of African-American males in the country, gave a lecture titled “Toward the Beloved Community.”

Wilson has dedicated more than 25 years to achieving a more socially conscious education. He started his education career serving at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and George Washington University. He also served as the president of the Greater Boston Morehouse College Alumni Association (GBMCAA).

An educator, scholar, consultant, and strategist, Wilson has served in many other organizations such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and United Negro College Fund’s Institute for Capacity Building. Prior to being the president for Morehouse College, President Barack Obama appointed Wilson to serve as the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, a position Wilson held since 2009. With his great abilities and efforts, Wilson has made great achievements for the universities and organizations with his vision.

Wilson’s lecture was based on a recent article he wrote for The Huffington Post, where he talked about how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed from the 1963 “I have a dream” King, which references his famous speech delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pond, to the more “angry King,” as witnessed in his 1967 speech at New York City’s Riverside Church. This version of Dr. King said “we need a reconstruction of the entire society; a revolution of values,” and proclaimed that “America is much, much sicker than I realized when I first began working in 1955,” due to its falling democracy, both socially and economically. Wilson’s lecture focused on the reasons behind King’s change.

Wilson believes that, in 2017, everyone in the United States has a lot more to learn from the wiser and more measured “angry King”— the King who said “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

Wilson believes that a lot of factors from 1963 and 1967 contributed to this shift in King, and believes that the factors which caused his shift are very similar to today’s situation.
He talked about three big lessons which could be learned from King in 1967.

The first is the necessity of moral intelligence, which is the socially responsible intelligence. According to King, education should equip students to do good as they do well for themselves. The second is aspiration intelligence. As King said, it’s a mistake to choose chaos rather than community as our future, and we need to have intelligence in our aspiration. According to King, education is the way out of this mistake, the way to increase people’s moral and aspirational intelligence. The third is capital intelligence and its importance in education and many other institutions.

Chelsea N. Jones, currently a master’s student in public policy and management at the Heinz College, was the student speaker this year accompanying Dr. Wilson. Her talk was about how “you do not have to be a radical to make a radical difference.” She believes that “the best way for us to unify is to listen. Not just to hear, but to understand.”