St. Norbert College professor and award-winning diversity educator headlines annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Monday, January 19 at 6:30 p.m.

From Lawrence University, January 12, 2009
by Rick Peterson, richard.peterson@lawrence.edu, (920) 832-6590

A diversity scholar who believes in the power of turning dreams into reality will be the keynote speaker at the Fox Cities annual celebration honoring the man whose own dreams changed the United States.

Bola Delano-Oriaran will examine the question of what is each person's purpose in the world at the 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Monday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel. The theme for this year's event is "Beyond Dr. King's Dream: Next Steps."

The celebration, co-sponsored by Lawrence University and Toward Community: Unity in Diversity, is free and open to the public. The Post-Crescent and WFRV-TV are media partners for the event.

Rev. Roger Bertschausen, who helped found the MLK celebration in 1992 and continues to serve in planning the annual event, calls Delano-Oriaran "someone who has made a real difference in the Fox Cities.

"I am excited to have Bola Delano-Oriaran keynoting this year's event," said Bertschausen, pastor at Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church. "In her work with students as well as her work with our community, she has promoted and exemplified Dr. King's dream."

An assistant professor of education at St. Norbert College, Delano-Oriaran shares her message of understanding the richness and value of diversity in society in a high-energy presentation. Ever since she organized a fundraiser for a disabled homeless man as a 13-year-old in her native Nigeria, Delano-Oriaran has advocated the importance of each person's role in building a better community and world.

Delano-Oriaran saw her own dream of a place where all people could gather to celebrate their individual identities and experiences realized with the creation of the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center in 2004.

Her efforts on behalf of diversity issues and community change have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Rotary Club of Appleton Charles and Patricia Heeter Outstanding Community Leadership Award and the St. Norbert College Bishop Robert F. Morneau Community Service Award. In 2000, the Wisconsin State Human Relations Association presented her with an Outstanding Human Relations Educator Award.

Highlighting the celebration will be the presentation by Toward Community of the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty Unity in Diversity Award to an area individual who has made great strides in bringing different people in the community together. Delano-Oriaran was a recipient herself of this award in 2004.

"This year's celebration occurs the eve before the inauguration of the first African-American president in U. S. history," said Kathy Flores, chair of the MLK committee and a member of Toward Community. "Not only is this an exciting time, it truly is a realization of Dr. King's dream. I am excited to come together with citizens of the Fox Cities to hear Bola Delano-Oriaran share her vision of how we as a people can move forward together into the future and into the next steps of Dr. King."

The MLK celebration also will include music performances by the Kaukauna High School Concert Choir and Lawrence sophomore Isake Smith. Area students will read their winning essays addressing the question "Beyond Dr. King's Dream: Next Steps" as part of the celebration.

"This celebration is truly another example of how a community, sharing similar yet different cultural values, can come together and pay tribute to a dream, dreamt by many," said Mohammed Bey, acting assistant dean for multicultural affairs at Lawrence. "It is has been inspiring to witness the level of participation from the community for this event."

A sign language interpreter will be present for the program and a reception for all in attendance will follow.