Keith Gets Personal in Stirring Stoffer Lecture at Opening Convocation
Albion College and Albion High School students joined community members, College faculty, and alumni for an inspiring address by Damon Keith, U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and the William K. Stoffer Lecturer at Albion's 2012 Opening Convocation. With warmth as well as forcefulness, the nonagenarian Keith gave his mostly teenaged audience a uniquely personal look at his defense of civil rights and their charge for the future.
Keith acknowledged the College's Global Diversity Theme Year as his inspiration for the title of his address, Discovering New Oceans. "Man will never discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore," he said, noting that his young audience has the continued charge of promoting social justice and combating bigotry.
Keith cited disturbing racial incidents from his own life to underscore the continued need for all citizens to stand up for justice. As chair of the national committee for the U.S. Constitution's bicentennial celebrations, Keith organized the largest meeting in the history of federal judges; during that meeting he was misidentified as a hotel service employee.
"There's not a day in my life, in some way large or small, that I'm not reminded that I'm black," Keith noted, challenging the students to be "great dissenters" who are vigilant in upholding the Constitution's foundation on the equality of all citizens. "If you witness injustice, each of you must speak out," he said. "If we turn a blind eye to any source of injustice, we jeopardize the integrity of democracy."
"With all the prestige, influence, and intellect of this great college, I want you to leave this afternoon knowing that we're walking on floors we did not scrub, going through doors we did not open," Keith concluded. "Scrub some floors for others to walk on, open some doors … if you don't, then I submit to you: who will?"