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Dorothy Cotton, A Ball of Progressive Energy

Berea's Martin Luther King, Jr. convocation

MLK Convo speaker Dorothy Cotton

“We all can be more...
...Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, you could grow wings. And when you’re ready and your wings are strong -- you can soar to great heights!”- Dorothy Cotton

On Monday, January 17, 2011, Dorothy Cotton, activist, public speaker, and one of the core members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), thrilled a huge audience of Berea College students when she stepped up to the podium during Monday’s annual Martin Luther King Day convocation. Cotton, one of the Civil Rights Movement’s leading activists, was the Education Director for the SCLC for twelve years before leaving for Cornell University to take her spot as Director of Student Activities. She holds a degree in Special Education from Boston University.

After heart-stirring selections from a volunteer ensemble and a humble introduction from our own President, Larry Shinn, Cotton was ready to address the reason she was here. She gave a moving and powerful speech that included her home life, her connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., world travels, poems, songs, contiguous humor and all-around gentle approach to a movement that changed history. One might also add how Cotton had a way of capturing her audience, leaving the crowd on the edge of laughter, then quickly snatching them away just in time. She also highlighted the theme of ownership, how people have to own who they are, and as Berea College students, how fortunate we are to have such wonderful professors to guide and nurture us.
“We have to deal with the language problem,” she quotes after a remark about color, a subject Cotton suggests needs a better terminology. At eighty years old, Cotton remains a ball of progressive energy.

Dorothy's upcoming book will focus on lessons from the historic citizenship education program and her work with Dr. King.


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