Dean's Blog

Discussing William Howard Day in celebration of MLK Day in Harrisburg

Penn Manor High School history teacher Todd Mealy drew parallels recently to Martin Luther King and Harrisburg civil rights leader William Howard Day in a speech to the Harrisburg campus community for its annual remembrance of Martin Luther King.

Mealy, the author of “Aliened American: A Biography of William Howard Day,” spoke Thursday Jan. 19 about Day’s contributions to early civil rights efforts, but he also used the occasion to provide inspired thoughts about leadership.

“Life seems to have a persistent theme of good and bad, or life and death,” Mealy said. “I think there’s an infinite trend of struggles and successes. Because of that, we’ll always be in need of leaders.”

King was the symbol and leader of a movement who spoke for those who couldn’t, and who took a bullet at the age of 39 for everyone who wanted equality, Mealy said. Day, who Mealy called one of the most “significant but marginalized” figures in history, lived a much longer life and collaborated with civil rights activists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Day served six terms on the Harrisburg city school board and was the first African American school board president in the nation.

Day, who was adopted by a white family at the age of 12, was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio. He died in 1900, 29 years before King was born. A Harrisburg-area cemetery and housing development bear Day’s name.

With a photo display of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. rolling on a loop behind him, Mealy suggested students commit themselves to service even in a small way. Leaders are born, grow and die, and problems are always with us.

“Celebrate this holiday by finding ways to contribute to your community,” Mealy said. “A community is always looking for someone to lead.”

Dean of Students Keith Sealing organized the event. He took the photos of the King memorial that were on display.

Bring your game face, former Delaware governor says

[this originally appeared on our Law School Site] Law students looking for advice about leadership were given a lot to think about when former Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner visited the Delaware campus recently for an informal talk in the student lounge.
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Minner, who was widowed at 32 with three young children and only a 10th-grade education, said success is tied to confidence. If you lack it, don’t let it show.

“Perception is what I call 85 percent of the job,” she said. “If you show confidence they’ll think, ‘She knows what she’s doing, she’ll handle this problem.’’’

Her ability to stay cool under pressure has been tested repeatedly. Minner explained how she had to find work to support her children after her husband died, but she couldn’t secure a car loan without a man’s co-signature. She eventually managed with the help of an acquaintance in the auto business, but the roadblocks were enough to inspire a political career that led to Woodburn. She earned her general equivalency diploma, began work as a secretary in Legislative Hall and eventually ran for House of Representatives. Twenty six years and 11 successful campaigns later, she became Delaware’s first female governor in 2000.

To underscore her theme about confidence, Minner told the story of hosting a dinner party for 32 guests at Woodburn not long after the Sept. 11 tragedy. An airplane carrying 258 passengers became lost over Delaware, but without knowing the full extent of the problem public safety officials were quickly suspicious. The plane ultimately landed safely at Dover Air Force Base, but not before she was involved in some difficult briefings about the public-safety threat the situation presented, and even how the plane might have to be forcibly brought down. She maintained her composure with her guests, while also handling 11 phone briefings.

“On the inside you may be turning upside down but on the outside you can’t let it show,” she said.