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Coretta Scott King to Speak Friday

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

On Friday, Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will speak at MIT as part of the 20th annual MIT celebration of the life and work of her husband.

King, who is president and chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, will speak in Kresge Auditorium about "The Movement for Economic and Social Justice: 1994 and Beyond." Her talk is part of a program which includes readings and performances in Lobby 7 and a symbolic march from Lobby 7 to Kresge.

The program in Lobby 7 begins at 9:45 a.m. and includes a musical and dance presentation choreographed by Robin Offley, administrative assistant in the admissions office. Additionally, there will be readings and recitations by members of the MIT community, according to Arnold R. Henderson Jr., assistant dean for Student Assistance Services

The march begins at 11:45 a.m., and participants will walk four abreast, as Rev. King marched in the 1960s.

At noon, President Charles M. Vest will speak, then Coretta Scott King will speak.

"We're trying to create better understanding among people here and the different groups at MIT. ... I've asked all of the people and all the speakers to frame their comments about reaching out to each other," Henderson said.

The extensive program is an "opportunity for this whole community to be able to communicate and value differences," Henderson said.

"Each year we have a distinguished person come from outside the community to commemorate Martin Luther King and his contributions and the way it impacts on MIT," said Professor of Physics Michael S. Feld, an organizer of the event.

This year's event "represents the 20th year that we have commemorated Dr. King's dream, and that is why we felt it was important to bring Mrs. King to MIT," said Professor Leo Osgood, another program organizer.

"Having her to commemorate this celebration with us is a wonderful opportunity and a unique opportunity to underscore MIT's commitment to keeping Dr. King's dream of peace, pluralism, and diversity alive in the intellectual and spiritual life of MIT," Feld said.

The King commemoration program has "been a very important event for the last 20 years," and for the 20th anniversary "it would be appropriate to have someone of [Coretta Scott King's] stature and standing in the community to come," Feld said.

"MIT deserves a lot of credit for making it an official holiday before it became a national holiday," said Clarence G. Williams, special assistant to the president and assistant equal opportunity officer, who developed and led the event for the first 14 years. Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday in 1986.

"I think that probably the thing that stands out in my mind" is that the top MIT administration at the time of the program's inception "played a major role and moved to make it an official holiday before any other universities or colleges in the state of Massachusetts," Williams said.

"We have had over the last three years very, very good national speakers," Osgood said. "I think the Institute will continue to try to secure a person of a national prominence in the future."

Past speakers at the annual program have spoken on "very provocative themes," Osgood said. Last year, Rev. William H. Gray III, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, delivered the lecture. In 1992, Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke at the program.