Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Mass., pre­sented his grand vision for America on Thursday after­noon at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, calling upon people of all racial and ethnic back­grounds to reded­i­cate them­selves to closing the achieve­ment gap and improving the safety of their neighborhoods.

It is the love and wisdom and com­mit­ment to jus­tice that makes our nation great,” he said. “We can use our intel­lect and talent to face these chal­lenge and move forward.”

Warren deliv­ered his remarks to mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity and a score of Boston middle– and high-​​school stu­dents who filled Blackman Audi­to­rium for the university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Con­vo­ca­tion. Spon­sored by the John D. O’Bryant African Amer­ican Insti­tute, the fes­tive event cel­e­brated King’s life and legacy as a cham­pion of human rights through gospel music and read­ings of his work.

Robert Jose, asso­ciate dean of cul­tural and res­i­den­tial life, read a selec­tion from The Trumpet of Con­science, a col­lec­tion of lec­tures in which King summed up his forward-​​thinking views on racism, poverty, and war. “Dr. King,” Jose said, “had prophetic insight into the soul of man.”

North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun under­scored King’s con­tri­bu­tion to the country’s social and polit­ical progress. Of King’s Nobel Peace Prize, Aoun noted, “You don’t receive this prize for impacting one com­mu­nity; you receive it because you impacted the world.”

We are still feeling his impact,” Aoun added. “Without him, we wouldn’t have Setti Warren or Pres­i­dent Obama.”

  • The percussion ensemble IntaAfrika led the opening procession.

  • "Sister Noel" of IntaAfrika danced during the opening procession.

  • From left, President Joseph E. Aoun, Newton Mayor Setti D. Warren and Marc Lavarin, president of the Evangelical NU Fellowship Forum.

  • Members of the Voices of Renaissance choir performed.

  • Members of the Voices of Renaissance choir sing during the celebration.

  • Setti D. Warren, mayor of Newton, Mass., was the keynote speaker.

  • President Joseph E. Aoun speaks during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation.

Warren, for his part, invoked the late politi­cian Robert F. Kennedy in calling for an end to racial and social inequality. The demo­c­ratic sen­ator from New York deliv­ered remarks on King’s assas­si­na­tion on April 4, 1968, at a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign stop in Indi­anapolis, Ind., saying, “What we need in the United States is not vio­lence and law­less­ness, but is love, and wisdom, and com­pas­sion toward one another.”

When I read Kennedy’s words, I am reminded of what we need to do to rise above our dif­fer­ences,” Warren said. “Let’s use Dr. King’s life and Kennedy’s mes­sage to revive our efforts to embrace a new way of thinking.”

Warren is the son of the late Joseph Warren, the founder of Northeastern’s Youth Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Project. Like King, Warren ded­i­cated his life to others. “My father loved North­eastern and loved making sure that every young person had a chance to suc­ceed,” his son said.

The 90-​​minute cer­e­mony fea­tured sev­eral rousing musical per­for­mances. Audi­ence mem­bers clapped along to the tribal beats of the per­cus­sion ensemble IntraAfrika and gave two standing ova­tions to the Voices of Renais­sance Choir from the Boston Renais­sance Charter Public School. Choir mem­bers, who have per­formed for the First Lady and Pres­i­dent Obama at the White House, donned over­sized blue gowns and sang a stir­ring ren­di­tion of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Another song fea­tured a spoken intro­duc­tion in which one group member said, “I am a child hero—there is room for me at the top.”