City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will deliver the keynote address tonight in the Dillingham Center as part of Ithaca College’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Week.
Myrick’s speech, to be held Wednesday night in the Hoerner Theater at 7 p.m., will cover “A New Definition of Greatness,” this year’s MLK Week theme and an excerpt from King’s last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., two months before his death. The speech is free and open to the public.
Myrick said he plans to emphasize this generation’s ability to place an importance on the lives of others affected by issues such as global warming and disease, whereas people of past generations may have placed a higher importance on their own personal gain.
“I’m going to talk about using a new definition of greatness to keep accomplishments and failures away from the individual level and show a more collective understanding of success and failure where teams and communities can be great together, or they can fail together,” Myrick said. “But the individual himself can never be successful, nor can he fail.”
John Rawlins, assistant director for multicultural affairs at the college and chair of the MLK Week celebration planning committee, said Myrick’s speech should have an impact with students because of the mayor’s appeal. Rawlins said he hopes students walk away from the speech understanding the importance of service.
“As students — and I’ll say we because, even as staff and faculty, we’re always students of life — we have to be able to think very critically about where we are in our lives, what privileges we have, maybe things that we don’t have,” Rawlins said. “But in between that, where’s the opportunity to serve?”
Myrick, 24, was sworn in on Jan. 1 as the youngest and first African American mayor in the history of the City of Ithaca. The Democrat is a 2009 graduate of Cornell University.
Candice Brown, a sophomore MLK scholar, said Myrick is a good choice for this year’s keynote speaker because he relates to the week’s theme.
“I think he defines a new definition of greatness,” Brown said. “With him being so young and with him being an African American, he epitomizes it.”
Accent editor Shea O’Meara contributed to this report.