Gray urges MSU alumni to follow King's dream

January 08, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

William H. Gray III urged Morgan State University alumni, who have prospered through their education, to use their success to improve poorer communities.

"If you have made it up the mountainside, get back down in the ghetto and help," Mr. Gray, president of the United Negro College Fund, said yesterday. "It is sickening to look down your nose at your brothers and sisters who are still in the battle."

Mr. Gray was the featured speaker at the 10th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast, sponsored by the university alumni association. The audience of about 750 interrupted his address with applause and shouts of "Amen."

Mr. Gray, a former congressman and the first black to chair the House Budget Committee, became president of the college fund in 1991. He wove personal remembrances of Dr. King into a strident call to continue his legacy by helping others.

"The dream stays alive as long as we go through life willing to help," he said. "There was a lot of sacrifice so we could realize our dream. What sacrifices are you making to make sure somebody else is realizing a dream?"

He praised efforts to establish scholarships through "a tribute to the great spiritual genius of the 20th century." Morgan State has provided Baltimore and the nation with "catalysts for change in the world," he said. He urged alumni to maintain their school tradition through contributions to the scholarship program.

Mr. Gray, recently President Clinton's envoy to Haiti, said he "knew Martin Luther King not as a historical figure but as a real person with an intense willingness to struggle and confront injustice."

He decried what he sees as a lack of courage and unwillingness to sacrifice today. "Martin would be astounded at our response to hard times," he said. "The crime, drugs and children killing each other . . . are not somebody else's problem. They are ours."

He praised the alumni association for its efforts to "empower so many through education."

The group awarded three $2,500 scholarships to Morgan students and collected $4,000 to donate to an endowment for Tavon Johnson. The 18-year-old Anne Arundel County high school student adopted his 12-year-old half-brother, after they were abandoned by their parents.

"Understand what has happened and why and understand you have to be the solution," Mr. Gray said. The solution "depends on us in our communities.

"Black colleges have always said, 'Come on in here' to kids, who need to be lifted from their environment and see professors who look like them," he said. "Morgan State University knows how to take a lump of coal and turn it into a diamond."

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