MLK Convocation Speaker Lori White Preaches ‘The Power of One’

Jan. 15, 2016
Brenau Staff
Dr. Lori S. White, one of the nation's leading experts on diversity in higher education, is the keynote speaker at Brenau University's annual convocation celebrating the life and teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Lori S. White, one of the nation’s leading experts on diversity in higher education, is the keynote speaker at Brenau University’s annual convocation celebrating the life and teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Brenau University on Tuesday, Jan. 19, welcomes Dr. Lori S. White, vice chancellor for students at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the nation’s leading experts on diversity in higher education, as keynote speaker at its annual convocation celebrating the life and teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our students need to see a woman like White in her position of power, and to see themselves in her,” said Brenau Dean of Students Valerie Simmons-Walston. “We want them to look at her and think, ‘one day I can be a vice chancellor, a trailblazer and pioneer in my chosen field of expertise.’”

The theme of this year’s convocation is “The Power of One,” with its guiding principle the iconic King quote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As a speaker, White has an incredible amount of energy, Simmons-Walston said. “She knows how to motivate students and she has developed innovative strategies for staff and faculty to instruct and assist students with compassion and integrity.”

Before joining Washington University, White served several administrative and management roles at Southern Methodist University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, Georgetown University and the University of California, Irvine. In addition to White’s presentations at several national conferences for college and university student services administrators, her work has also been featured in the Journal of College and Character and African American Culture and Higher Education in Research and Practice.

White’s speech is titled “Becoming a Drum Major for Justice Through the Power of One Voice, The Power of One Vote, The Power of One Volunteer.”

White said the teachings and principles King promoted and held dear have just as much significance in today’s America as they did half a century ago. And that message, she said, is something especially relevant to college students.

“It is so important for us to continue to reflect on King’s life and the continuing impact of his work on us today,” White said. “I’d love to be able to help bring him and his message alive, for current and future generations.”

King, who would’ve been 87 this year, certainly proved that one individual can profoundly influence an entire nation and bring about incredible social changes, White said. She contests an assumption by many students she has encountered in her career who believe they are incapable of making an impact on the world. Her address will touch upon the many ways young women can empower themselves at the personal, civic and global level.

White’s “Power of One” message, Simmons-Walston said, inspires students to believe that “it only takes one person to have enough courage to develop an innovative idea, extend a caring hand or stand against injustice, and it only takes one person with an extraordinary vision to ignite the fire and passion of change.”

Simmons-Walston said the convocation, which she described as a soulful celebration, has become one of the most anticipated annual events for all Brenau students. Beginning at 12:45 p.m. in Pearce Auditorium, 202 Boulevard, the program also includes performances from the Brenau Gospel Choir and the Tau Sigma Dance Fraternity. It will be one of two major “King week” events on campus, followed Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. by a program for students and the public featuring U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was one of King’s chief lieutenants in the civil rights struggle during the 1960s.

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