‘Service is something we can all do’

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 06:04 PM

As the rain came pounding down around them and the puddles under the gazebo grew larger, the black-suited brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha stood in a tight circle and slowly, proudly sang their fraternity anthem.

There was a seriousness to their purpose, just as there was to the entire Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation at N.C. Central University Thursday. The celebration, which ended with an abbreviated ceremony at the University Bowl with the fraternity brothers honoring the man who had been one of their own, featured retired N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

Timmons-Goodson posed a serious challenge to the students and others who packed the B.N. Duke Auditorium.

“A lot of people have marched and died for you,” she said. “I hope you will take up the yoke and march yourselves — in whatever form you choose.”

Timmons-Goodson pointed out, particularly to the young people in the audience, that when King died — at the age of 39, in 1968 — he was just barely older than they were. To them now, he is only a video clip and a sound bite.

“He is now gone from this earth longer than he lived on this earth,” she said. “He accomplished much, but he left many things undone. And we are challenged to pick up the work that he left undone.”

That can seem, Timmons-Goodson acknowledged, to be a very daunting challenge.

“It is easy to say that I am no Dr. King,” she said. “But he was, after all, just a man, not a superman.”

What made him special, the former judge added, was his willingness to serve.

“That is such a humble-sounding concept,” she said. “But service is something we can all do. It’s something many of you do already.”

Everybody can be great, Timmons-Goodson argued, because everybody can serve.

“Look outside yourself,:” she advised. “Help others. Work in your community. Do something, do anything, for somebody else. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just take some action.”

Those of her generation, she concluded, are not going to be around forever. And so, she told the young people, “we need you. We need your energy. We need your enthusiasm. We need your boldness. And we hope you will not let us down.”

Speaking after Timmons-Goodson, NCCU’s interim chancellor Charles Becton noted that making a difference in the lives of others is not just a benefit to those others.

It is, he said, “a gift to you as well.”