North Central College - Naperville, IL

Alum cites impact of King's inspirational words

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Jan. 17, 2011—The keynote speaker at North Central College’s 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast says the civil rights leader’s words inspired him to achieve success in his life.

Brian Lee, a 2001 graduate of North Central, told the gathering of nearly 200 students, community leaders and other guests how King’s words helped him overcome adversity when he sustained a season-ending injury during his football-playing days at North Central.

“Dr. King said, ‘If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,’” Lee said, citing a 1963 speech King made in Birmingham, Ala. “After my injury, I supported the team any way I could … In life, it’s not about how bad your situation is, it’s how you handle your situation.”

Lee bounced back from the knee injury his sophomore year and went on to earn All-Conference football honors. He excelled academically, earning North Central’s Outstanding Physical Education Major of the Year Award, and was a leader on campus in many ways, including as a tutor and mentor to youths from high-need schools involved in the College’s Junior/Senior Scholars program.

Since 2001, Lee has worked at Elk Grove High School, where he teaches physical education and coaches varsity football, junior varsity softball and freshman girls basketball. He’s an ordained deacon with the Baptist Church.

His prayer breakfast address was titled, “Going Higher” and referenced several of King’s inspirational remarks, including, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Dr. King says everyone can be great, anyone can serve,” Lee said. “All you need is a heart full of grace and a soul full of love to give your time and services. That type of service develops you as a person.”

North Central College President Dr. Harold Wilde welcomed the audience, which gathered to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of King’s birth. Wilde noted King’s 1960 visit to North Central College, and how the civil rights leader’s legacy as an advocate for nonviolence is especially poignant in light of the recent shooting that left six dead and wounded a member of Congress in Tucson, Ariz.

“Martin Luther King’s witness wasn’t just about racial quality,” Wilde said. “It was about nonviolence and how you bring about change in this country without using guns.”

Founded in 1861 and celebrating its Sesquicentennial in 2011, North Central College is an independent, comprehensive college of the liberal arts and sciences that offers more than 55 undergraduate majors and graduate programming in six areas. Located in the Historic District of Naperville, Illinois—rated by Money magazine as among the nation’s “Best Places to Live”—North Central College is just 30 minutes from Chicago’s Loop. With more than 2,900 undergraduate and graduate students, North Central College is committed to academic excellence, a climate that emphasizes leadership, ethics, values and service, a curriculum that balances job-related knowledge with a liberal arts foundation and a caring environment with small classes.