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Martin Luther King, Jr. is pictured with Hofstra University President Clifford Lord and members of the Secret Service. King's participation in the commencement ceremony caused mixed reaction from local community members.
Students and community members still draw upon Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words and life through materials archived on campus. Hofstra University celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2010.
Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to several Long Island audiences in 1965, but on June 13th his commencement speech at Hofstra University stirred up a wide variety of community sentiments. Students, family, faculty and others enthusiastically gathered to hear King, who first went to college at age 15. His visit, however, evoked protests from others, including letters to Hofstra President, Clifford Lord, about King's supposed communist leanings. Hofstra's Public Safety Office, Nassau County Police and the Secret Service were all present at the event.
King expressed his appreciation for the honorary degree awarded by Hofstra and cited the value of such "moral support." He then gave an impassioned speech for the need to end social injustice, poverty, and war.
Hofstra's University Archives maintains the history of this day and its surrounding events. Trustee Emeritus Bernard Fixler and Mrs. Lucy Wachtel, wife of King's longtime attorney, and Hofstra professor of political science Harry Wachtel helped make this possible through the donation of Harry Wachtel's Papers to Hofstra's Department of Special Collections. This collection of papers includes information about Supreme Court cases, organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights movement, and Wachtel's trip with King and his supporters to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Students and community continue to remain impacted by King's visit.
This entry contributed by the Center for Public Archaeology at Hofstra University