Young Leaders Gain Insights, Inspiration from Civil Rights Era Leaders at King Center Forum

Eric Olsen
December 20, 2012

‘Spreading the Dream’ Leadership Forum, IYLA 2012, Atlanta, Georgia

“Have you invested yourself in your own vision?” asked noted civil rights leaders and other service and peace-building advocates at a Leadership forum,  ‘Spreading the Dream,’ in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 2.  The forum which included some 50 international young leaders was hosted at the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and was part of a four-day International Young Leaders Assembly running concurrently with the 2012 Global Peace Convention.

Dr. Markendey Rai, chief of Global Parliamentarians and Trade Unions Program of UN-Habitat, set the tone for the event with opening words, “Gandhi and MLK were great because of one word: Service.”

“You can’t just pray for peace. You have to make it happen,”added Peter Hayes, National Program Director for the Martin Luther King Day of Service, a U.S. national holiday honoring the memory of Dr. King.

Judge Glenda Hatchett, a childhood friend of Yolanda King, first child of Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and star of the Judge Hatchett Show, spoke to the youth on the metaphorical torch of righteousness that is passed down through history: “You don’t own the torch, you are a caretaker for it from our ancestors. When you pass it, it should burn brighter.”

Rev. C.T. Vivian, U.S. Civil Rights Leader

The program followed with a town hall discussion with legends of the civil rights movement, who spoke on how to advance the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

“I first heard Martin at a prayer pilgrimage in Washington, shared Rev. C. T. Vivian, a rider on the first “Freedom Bus” into Jackson, Mississippi. Not just a civil rights leader, he said, “Martin was a moral and spiritual leader.”

Rev. Gerald Durley, former Pastor of Atlanta’s historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church, called the gathering “a Kairos moment”—a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action. “There is a bigger purpose moving. It’s divinely inspired.”

The civil rights leaders also took questions from participants. One asked, “When are you going to give us [youth] the power to bring about the kinds of changes you made?” Rev. Vivian responded, “Leaders are not given power. They make it or take it.”

“Freedom is never won. You earn it from every generation.”

“You have to earn leadership, Rev. Durley added,  “It is a lonely position.”

Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., shared what she learned from her mother on the struggle for freedom: “Freedom is never won. You earn it from every generation. Whatever your age, there’s a generational calling on you.”

Rev. King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change,  which hosted the forum, said the mission of the center was to teach the next generation how to carry on the dream of her father.

Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

“When you are chosen,” she continued, “you have no choice in the matter. You have each been chosen.”

Next year will mark the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In commemoration, Tray Deadwyler, Manager of Program Adoption and Training at the Points of Light Institute, announced the launching of the “Be the Dream” campaign, which will engage youth worldwide in service to promote moral principles and values taught by peace-building leaders like Dr. King, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and others. He encouraged everyone in attendance to become engaged through online portals, which will include the website

Bishop Sampson, Founder and Prelate of Kingdom Manifestation, gave concluding remarks, advising the young leaders to “do something to impact the past, present and future like Jesus or Gandhi, or Steve Jobs did.

The November 29-December 2 International Young Leaders Assembly included events at the Points of Light Institute and sessions held concurrently during the 2012 Global Peace Convention, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Building Healthy Families, Ethical Societies, and a Global Culture of Peace.”


Civil rights and service leaders with delegates at the King Center and Martin Luther King National Historic site.

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