In a service commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 last Friday urged Cantabrigians and Harvard students not to forget King's message of unity.
Speaking to an audience of over 100 at Memorial Church, Reeves said Harvard students sometimes forget about people who live beyond "these walls" under different socio-economic conditions. He emphasized that people should strive to understand other lifestyles.
"The gospel of Martin Luther King is the most inclusive one could imagine," Reeves said.
Reeves, introduced by President Neil L. Rudenstine as a person who "manages to both cross barriers and unite," drew from his own experiences to remind the crowd of King's message.
He recounted the story of a young homeless boy who fell victim to societal neglect.
The boy's principal told Reeves the youngster wanted to meet him because, "He has never met a Black man who wasn't poor."
The mayor said that although he helped the boy's family find an apartment, the story ended sadly. A few years later, circumstances forced him and his siblings into cramped quarters with another family.
The boy's father is dying of AIDS and his mother is in a drug rehabilitation center.
"This little boy in America has had no chance, no hope," he said. "If he shoots someone, I would understand. If he fails to buy into the dream, I would understand."
Reeves said that stories like this are common. Eventually, he said, it will lead to more violence.
"There is building up in the reality of many Americans a true rage," he said. "They're smart enough to know that there is nothing in America planned for them."
But Reeves said the holiday offers Americans a chance to reflect on their priorities and to change the situation.
"[It is] a time to remind ourselves that we in America are committed to freedom for all," he said. The mayor added that Americans have a responsibility to help all oppressed groups, "no matter who, no matter what oppression."
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