Speaker at MLK Day celebration encourages audience to follow own dreams

4 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE — The University of Maine at Presque Isle celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday with an event featuring motivational speaker Rashaad Johnson, who commanded the audience to gain inspiration from King to follow their own dreams. 


Johnson lauded King as a vital example of how someone can overcome the hardships and boundaries around themselves to change something they see as unjust. He said that King’s work in the civil rights movement was never something that came easily, but he knew was required to create a better tomorrow.

Johnson said King’s unconventional thinking and clear motivation was what drove him to become a national figure as a black man in his 20s, in a deeply segregated and unequal United States.

“Everything he did was kind of out-of-the-ordinary,” Johnson said. “Everything he did was kind of different than what other people were doing at the time.”

Johnson said that King was a far more controversial figure within his lifetime than he is today, even among African-Americans. He made it clear that efforts for change, especially when it is “radical,” such as in King’s case, will always cause fierce opposition. 

“That’s one of the burdens of believing you’re going to change the world,” Johnson said. “Most people are not going to agree with you. They are going to call you crazy.” 

While talking about King and his message, Johnson interspersed moments from his own life, including his upbringing in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the death of his sister when he was 23, which he describes as a pivotal moment for himself. 

He noted that his sister’s death was an essential factor in driving him to try and inspire others. He currently tries to do just that through motivational work with his Washington, D.C.-based organization ImpactU

Closing out, Johnson asked everyone in the audience to raise their hand if they were perfectly content with the current state of humanity. When nobody raised a hand, Johnson responded that it was not just a personal choice to want to change an unjust society, but a responsibility. 

“Everybody has the ability to change the world, to cause a ripple effect that can go down generations,” Johnson said. 

Nearly 20 people attended the MLK Day speech, including students, UMPI staff and members of the public.