In a packed room at LaGrange College, about 250 students, faculty and community members listened to the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. give an impassioned and eloquent speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Tuesday morning. As the seats filled up quickly, people took to sitting on the floors and standing against the wall.
Introduced by the Rev. Quincy Brown as one of America’s most influential leaders, Moss is a theologian, pastor, civic leader and a native of LaGrange. He was an integral part of the civil rights movement and close friends with King.
In remembrance of King’s legacy, Moss spoke about keeping the dream alive from generation to generation.
“You have, and we have, a special mission for the 21st century,” Moss said. “The question of history will be not did you build a highway… not even did you build a memorial, but what kind of legacy did each of us receive and what did we do to the legacy, what did we do with the dream, what did we do for the dream, and what did the dream do for us.”
Moss commissioned an attentive crowd to recognize the dream in their hands and to live it boldly.
“There is something in our hands, something special, something historic, something challenging, something wrapped in often unrevealed possibilities, something that is given for a fleeting moment,” he said.
Moss spoke about King’s lifelong preparation for his mission and how it translated to every individual calling. He stressed the importance of living every act with purpose and hard-work.
Moss ended his speech with what he called an assignment where he instructed the crowd to speak aloud and repeat “In our time and in our space, by God’s grace, we will, we can, we must make a difference.”
His lecture was followed by an question and answer session where he answered questions about his time with King and his steadfast position on non-violent protests and how that compared with the teachings of Malcolm X.
LaGrange College Junior, Patrick Reynolds, asked the latter question about his stance on non-violence.
“For him to tell me about the love and compassion that Dr. King had really jumped out at me. It let me know it’s not about attacking those individuals who attack you, rather it’s about loving them and showing them the respect [which] eventually you have to receive,” Reynolds said.
Moss succeeded in making King’s message relevant and universal over 50 years later to those who may have a great distance between them and the 1960’s.
“Rev. Dr. Moss was really able to recreate that sense of purpose and dedication,” LaGrange College provost David Garrison said.
Throughout his life, Moss served as pastor at several churches in LaGrange, Atlanta and Ohio. In 2008, he retired as pastor for the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He has won several awards and honors, including the Role Model of the Year award from the National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Development in 2002.
He has been married to his wife Edwina for over 50 years, and which Dr. King officiated the wedding, and has three children, one who is now deceased.
The lecture was co-sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement and the Office of Spiritual Life and Church Relations.