Dr. L. Marshall Washington, 47, is president of the New River Community and Technical College in Beaver, West Virginia.
Washington was photographed in Lewisburg, West Virginia as part of a Martin Luther King celebration. Dr. Washington was the keynote speaker at the event. The following is an excerpt from the speech he delivered on MLK Day combined with an interview. (We spoke with Dr. Washington after the inauguration and following the Women’s March in DC.)
Washington: At the inauguration, seeing all those people, who have power, to be on one stage together and be civil and have a peaceful transfer of power and then have that march the next day — it gives me hope that we can continue to come together to discuss issues even when we disagree. This past weekend is one of those moments in time where we need to believe and still have hope. still believe in America. I believe if we all work together there is no reason to despair.
We cannot let obstacles stop us. We collectively need to take responsibility for our future. Some refuse to do so because they don’t think the problems can be fixed. But my response to that is — imagine what this country would be like today if Dr. King and that generation had assumed that a quest for racial equality and justice was doomed to fail?
We wouldn’t be here today. We can step into those shoes and continue to move forward.
I believe there are some solid strategies we can do individually to continue to nurture a place where people can be valued and respected.
- For yourself, take time. Commune with God. Make personal time to connect in your way and in your own practice of your religious beliefs. Worship. Meditate — pray and listen and be mindful. Improve your health — act like it really matters. Eat well. Get up. Go exercise.
- It’s time to be positive. Choose a positive attitude. We can all choose to be negative, but it takes a conscious effort to be positive. Exercise your faith. Encourage yourself and others. See the potential in others. See the possibilities even in negative situations. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all.
- Take time to give. Give of your time. Give of your resources. Help someone. Give of your talents that aid others and measure your success by what you give, not by what you receive. Serve others.
- Make time for relationships. Connect with people. Invest quality time in relationships. That means, that neighbor that you just throw up a hand and wave to every time you get in your car — go over and spend some time with them. Take time for relationships — one of the most segregated times of our week are Sundays. What about getting up and going to a different service? We need to do more, we have people who are hurting, hurting, hurting and all they need sometimes is a smile from you.
- Take time to learn. We are not that old that we cannot learn. We need to learn something new every single day. What are you reading? What was the last book you read? Is it the daily news or that Facebook page? Seek knowledge to better yourself. Seek someone’s different opinion. You may be a Republican but have you ever picked up the Democratic stuff? Or you may be a Democrat and have you picked up the Republican stuff? Change the channel from Fox News to CNBC. Change it to see what’s going on. You need a different source. Take a college class. Go learn a new skill. Take time to read.
- Take time in the moment to just say I am here. Be here in the moment and appreciate the simple pleasures of daily living. Give people your full attention. Live in the moment.
- Take time to work. Get up early and go to work. Put your time in. Things don’t come easy. We have been equipped to do some great things, but sometimes we sit back and let it go by. We are equipped by God to serve and be accountable. Take what you have and build on those. Believe your potential can be greater.
- Play. But you’ve got to balance it with work. See the humor in everything. We have to stop taking everything so seriously. Everything is not an affront to you. Everything is not about you. Take yourself out of the center of it, and have some fun and enjoy it.
- It’s time to forgive. For everything that’s happened in 2016 — you need to let it go. It means nothing to hold on to the anger and resentment. It will keep you locked in 2016 while the world keeps moving and evolving. As the world turns, it will continue turning and you are going to be right there in 2016 and people are going to be in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It’s going to keep on, so move on and forgive. It matters not if someone apologizes. Forgiveness is about YOU. Ask others to forgive you for your part, even if you don’t think you had a part in it. Forgive to move on. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all. An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
- Take time to rest and refresh. Reset quickly after a failure. Just like those computers – reset. Failure is part of success. We all have them but you just have to reset yourself. It’s time to be brave. We’ve got to move on, and we’ve got work to do. So be brave. Be courageous during these challenging times. Battles do come in life. We wouldn’t have life if it wasn’t a battle. Watch your tongue and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. If you have an idea for ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ please contact Nancy Andrews on Twitter @NancyAndrews or email at nancy.andrews [at] mail.wvu.edu.