The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Keisha Lance Bottoms says MLK’s legacy lives on

The former Atlanta mayor served as the keynote speaker for W&L’s week of Martin Luther King Jr. programming
Keisha Lance Bottoms says MLK’s legacy lives on

The Lexington community gathered on Jan. 15 at Lenfest Center for the Arts to celebrate the life and legacy of Marin Luther King Jr. and hear from Keisha Lance Bottoms, the 60th mayor of Atlanta and former director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

In a discussion moderated by Dean of W&L School of Law Melanie Wilson, Bottoms shared her experience in law and politics and gave advice to the audience.

Atlanta native Bottoms spoke about the impact of King’s legacy on her life and career journey as a Black woman.

“Nothing seemed impossible because [in Atlanta] I could literally pass someone’s house who changed the world,” Bottoms said at the event. “There were no limitations, and that’s what Dr. King created for all of us.”

Bottoms has had  a distinguished career in law, during which she was a judge and city councilmember.

Her experience allowed her to run and be selected to become the first mayor of Atlanta who has served in all three branches of government.

“In the midst of a global pandemic and a racial justice movement, Keisha became a leading spokesperson regarding the challenges and opportunities facing cities and leaders across America,” said Lexington’s Vice-Mayor Marylin Alexander while introducing Bottoms.

Bottoms also discussed the future of leadership in the 21st century and importance of perseverance needed to follow your dreams.

“Focus on what’s true in your heart even if people don’t understand it,” said Bottoms.

The 2024 MLK Commemorative Committee provided W&L students and staff with a platform to reflect on the legacy of MLK as well.

Tamika McCoy, a human resources assistant, opened the ceremony by performing Lift Every Voice and Sing, written by James Weldon Johnson. All the attendees stood up and sang along, setting the tone for the ceremony, which Alina de Zoysa, ’25, hosted.

Jalen Todd, ’25, paid tribute to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., a historically Black fraternal organization that King was a member of.

Todd recognized the impact and legacy that King had on the organization and read the poem “To be an Alphaman” written by Fred Woodruff.

“Fraternity speaks of brotherly love, that’s something to achieve. It’s more than just a grip of hands, it’s an ideal to conceive,” Todd read from the poem. “So take an honest inventory of your character within, and for every virtue you find missing, try and weave it in.”

W&L’s Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Engagement Tamara Futrell encouraged the audience to attend the week-long series of events on campus and in Lexington that continue celebrating the legacy of Dr. King.

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