John Maguire will never forget his first encounter with a “precocious” divinity student who later became the leader of a movement that swept through the nation.
In 1951, Maguire visited a theological seminary in Pennsylvania, where he heard a young Martin Luther King Jr. give a welcoming speech to curious students.
“He was an incredible, forceful speaker,” Maguire says. “He was only 21 years old at the time, so clearly he had the gifts of oratory from a very young age.”
Maguire, an accomplished civil rights activist and president emeritus of Claremont Graduate University, shared common ground with the man whose gifted rhetoric spurred action around the country and caused many to think globally.
“He had the most radical, fresh vision. He really made it international,” says Maguire, who is also senior fellow of the Institute for Democratic Renewal. Maguire’s life journey sometimes mirrored the path of King.
Ironically, King’s death confirmed the truth about society’s ills, about hate, about racial injustices plaguing mankind. Maguire believes King’s premature death shattered his cohesive vision to attain a “beloved community.” And though he outwardly opposed the Vietnam War, comparing the exploitation abroad to the segregation at home, his message was stopped short.