Jan 20, 2012 0
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.