Cleaver speaks for Martin Luther King celebration

Tim Paluch

As part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration, Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II addressed the role of religion in the American political system.Cleaver, an ordained United Methodist minister, was the first elected black mayor of Kansas City and spoke to a crowd of more than 150 people Tuesday night in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.During his speech, Cleaver told the diverse crowd that faith does play an important role in the political process.”Faith is an inextricable part of the American political scene, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon, because, when you use faith in politics, it works,” he said.Cleaver said he was thankful he had been chosen to talk in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.”Martin Luther King Jr. had a faith that changed America,” he said. “And everyone, whether you like him, praise him, or are indifferent about him, live as a result of what he did.”King showed how to use religion to benefit society without forcing it on others, Cleaver said.”Martin Luther King Jr. made an impact on this nation without prostituting his religion,” he said. “He used his faith to teach, and you could embrace it whether you were a Christian or not.”While expressing strong opinions on current social issues, Cleaver said he would never support an amendment to the Constitution legalizing prayer in school, a view he said people have been surprised to see in him because of his strong religious faith. “Pastors and parents and people of faith should encourage young people to pray often, and privately, during the school year,” he said.A new school voucher program being prompted by President Bush’s administration is “exclusive” and “obscene,” he said, after a question had been raised concerning the issue.”I think that anyone who lives in urban America can’t possibly support the voucher system, if they understand what it means,” he said. “You are essentially re-segregating a city based on economics.”Robert Price, president of the Black Student Alliance, said Cleaver showed what role faith can play in society.”Regardless of their differences, anyone that follows their beliefs of Christianity and its principles, they can reach into other areas and help those people out,” said Price, junior in management information systems.The variety among the audience members was important to Jasmine Staggers, vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers, because it signified King’s impact on society.”It was really good to see the diversity here. It’s kind of hard to get a mixture of people to come out to certain events just to hear someone speak,” said Staggers, junior in computer engineering.Without King’s message and idealism, Cleaver said he would not be who he is today, and he encouraged everyone to acknowledge that for themselves.”Each man and each woman in these United States has been given the privilege and the right to touch the face of their God, in any way they so choose,” he said. “Martin Luther King Jr. did it, and it changed the world.”