On Jan. 24, Saddleback College invited Terrell Fletcher to speak about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. Fletcher, a former NFL running back, retired after eight years with the San Diego Chargers and later founded City of Hope International Church. He currently serves as the Church’s senior pastor and travels the world preaching a message of peace and nonviolent change.
The event, sponsored by the Associated Student Government and the Saddleback College President’s Office, started at 10:30 a.m. at the McKinney Theatre. Despite the inclement weather, the event was attended by between 150 and 200 persons from a broad cross section of the Saddleback community, including students, faculty, staff, as well as individuals who came from the “outside” to hear Fletcher’s words.
Fletcher took the stage and immediately assured the audience that he had not come to talk football. He spoke briefly of his career in the NFL, but made it clear that, after six years, he felt the beginnings of a higher calling. He said he loved working with people and that is what led him to become a pastor.
After another two years in the NFL, Fletcher went into the ministry, first earning a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies at the San Diego Bible College and Seminary. His church has become “a thriving multicultural and multi-denominational ministry in San Diego.”
Fletcher went on to talk about King and King’s thoughts regarding such concepts as equality, justice and understanding. He spoke of King’s struggles, specifically the time spent in jail in Birmingham, Alabama and his march to Washington D.C. where he gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.
Fletcher then shifted the focus to current day struggles facing all minorities and the importance of peacefully advocating change. He admonished the audience that there was still far to go, but he said the journey could only be completed if everyone worked together.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just want to see equal rights for black people,” Fletcher said. “Freedom didn’t have a face or color. Freedom was right and that was worth fighting for.”
The speech concluded with a question-and-answer period where audience members asked for the speaker’s opinions on many subjects such as his interpretation of passive resistance and what King might think of our society today.
Following that, the majority of attendees participated in a “Peace Walk” which took participants to the Saddleback Village quad, via Marguerite and Avery Parkways.
About a dozen of the participants carried signs that bore some of King’s most famous sayings.
“It’s important to talk about the civil rights movement”, said Josh Boughton, 18, undecided, who attended the event. “It’s still a problem today, like it was then.”
The last part of the event was a fish fry in the Village quad. People lined up for fish provided by Pee & Gee Fish Market.
There was also an exhibit provided by the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai called “Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace”. The exhibit included pictures and facts about the famous advocates of peace.
“I think it’s a great idea for the campus”, said Jacob McCrae, 20, business. “I think everybody should know more about Martin Luther King Day. It’s not just another day off. So many people take it for granted.”