Inspiring speeches and rousing music marked North­eastern University’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Con­vo­ca­tion on Wednesday. The annual event honors King’s legacy and cel­e­brates the vibrancy and diver­sity of the North­eastern community.

This year’s keynote speaker, Rod­erick L. Ire­land, PhD ’98, Hon. ’98, was the first African Amer­ican to be nom­i­nated to the Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Judi­cial Court, and was recently con­firmed as its first African Amer­ican chief jus­tice. He earned his doc­torate in law, policy and society at Northeastern.

Ire­land noted that King’s dream of racial equality, his com­mit­ment to non-​​violence and his pur­suit of social, eco­nomic and polit­ical jus­tice are cen­tral to the civil rights leader’s enduring legacy.

Dr. King was a leader in the truest sense of the word. He looked beyond his own self-​​interest and looked beyond his fears to become the pre-​​eminent spokesman for freedom and jus­tice in our country,” Ire­land told stu­dents, fac­ulty, staff and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered at Blackman Auditorium.

Over the years, Ire­land said, what has res­onated deeply with him about King’s life is the idea of “the power of one.” Like­wise, he said, “Each of us has the power to change a life,” and urged those in atten­dance to dis­cover how to follow through on that goal.

Let us renew our sense of com­mit­ment to social jus­tice,” Ire­land con­tinued. “In all of our actions and inter­ac­tions with each other, let us strive to be voices rather than echoes, head­lights rather than tail­lights, players rather than spec­ta­tors. We must be voices for our com­mu­nity and advo­cates for people of all races and creeds.”

Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun wel­comed Ire­land to the con­vo­ca­tion, saying, “We are extremely proud of his achieve­ments and what he represents.”

Aoun also said King’s words inspired people to cel­e­brate diver­sity in our society and pro­mote non-violence—themes, he added, that the Uni­ver­sity embodies and teaches on a daily basis.

The arts were promi­nently fea­tured throughout the con­vo­ca­tion, with per­for­mances by the com­mu­nity dance group IntaAfrika and the Unity Gospel Ensemble, com­posed of North­eastern stu­dents. Soloist Marchelles Jacques-​​Yarde per­formed King’s favorite song, “Take My Hand, Pre­cious Lord.”

In addi­tion, Marsha White, a grad­uate stu­dent and MLK Grad­uate Fellow, and Ryan Fox, pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion, each read one of King’s inspiring speeches.

North­eastern has held the con­vo­ca­tion, which is spon­sored by the John D. O’Bryant African-​​American Insti­tute, for more than 30 years.