by DIANA ODUHO
“Dreams are meant to evolve with time. You have to build your dream off your purpose, not your passion. … Once you find that purpose, then that should become your passion,” said Nate Washington, a former NFL wide receiver and TU aulmna who was the keynote speaker at Tiffin University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Jan. 15.
He stated that he was always reluctant despite his success. It was his determination and guidance from his mother that helped him find his purpose.
“We all face some type of doubt, fear...It's all up to you what you want to accomplish,” he said.
Washington, like Dr. King Jr., had a dream. His dream was to graduate college, but as a person grows, he explained, his or her dream changes and evolves over time.
There are two points Washington spoke on that stuck with me. They are words of hope and perseverance for anyone who may be having fear or doubt, or facing some type of adversity: “What God has planned for you is for you,” and “The opportunity lies within you.”
I believe that no matter where you come from, what trials of tribulations you face or what adversity comes your way, a dream can be reached with purpose.
At Tiffin, Washington was a football standout and finished his career with eight separate receiving records. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2005, and holds two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers and the Tennessee Titans. Washington hails from Toledo and grew up with a single mother who played a crucial role in his success.
The celebration was organized by the Black United Students organization and included a day was filled with song and words of wisdom, as well as selections from Tiffin University’s Gospel Choir, and break out sessions.
Harmony Bennett, a sophomore at Tiffin University, served as BUS’ secretary on the MLK Day Committee. When asked why Nate Washington was selected, she noted his success as an African-American man, as well connection to the university.
“With those credentials, we thought the students, faculty, and community people would really relate and be moved by his story and be informed on why we are coming together to celebrate such a powerful day,” Bennett said.
I had the chance to attend the activities of the day, and was amazed at how well everything was put together. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spread messages of love and equality throughout his life, and in the state that our country is in, it was important to reiterate these ideals.
The breakout sessions were educational, discussing topics of social equality, conflicts, inclusiveness, and the overall importance of cultural awareness and acceptance. I had the chance to attend the “Safe Zone” session, which focused on issues facing the LGBT+ community with the goal of creating an inclusive environment. Introductory information and terms were presented, and topics such as stigmas, the process of “coming out,” and how to be a source of support for a friend or family member in the LGBT+ community.
Tiffin University has an extremely diverse population, with a total of 392 international students representing more than 33 different countries. These sessions allowed students and mentors from different backgrounds and communities to come together.
Another session, "The Social Gospel and Its Impact on Dr. King,” was presented by Christopher Caldwell, a first-year advisor at Tiffin. The session discussed how the social gospel impacted the protests and teachings of Dr. King and how it is important in a time where social activism is see everyday.
“We regularly forget the deep and meaningful traditions of our past and trade them in for the bright and shiny promises of the future,” Caldwell said. In addition to the Social Gospel, he mentioned how Dr. King used Mahatma Gandhi’s values and peaceful protests to conduct his own.
“In many ways, the importance of my session is couched in understanding the past to fully inform our understanding of one of the most impact figures of the 20th Century. By having a fully informed understanding of Dr. King, we can better plan our actions for social justice today,” Caldwell said.
The breakout sessions were followed by Washington’s keynote speech.
“I think everyone who attended left impacted in some positive way,” Bennett said.
Although it’s been 50 years since Dr. King Jr.’s death, his message and impact still touches people from all walks of life today.