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Maurice Watson speaks in Polk series

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The third speaker in the Robert L. Polk Lectureship Series, Maurice Watson, came to Doane on Monday, sharing a message of social justice and equality.

That message has been the focus of the series, which had its first lecture in 2015, delivered by Polk himself.

Polk, the first African American student to graduate from Doane in 1952, gave a personal greeting and welcome as a prelude to the lecture.

Watson said to deliver a lecture bearing Polk’s name was a great honor.

“It is an honor because I recognize that he is thirty years my senior, therefore, he is the age of my parents, and the experience he had and the opportunities he availed himself of that really made the experiences I had thirty years later possible,” Watson said. “It is because of his success, his courage and leadership I’m sure many others after him were admitted and recruited."

Watson also said while easy to forget with the progress made, race relations in America two generations ago were much different than today.

“Much progress has been made because of the successes of people like Dr. Polk,” Watson said.

The lecture, which focused on the work remaining to achieve equality in America, was a way students coming from mostly white backgrounds to see the changes in the world, Watson said.

“The world is changing,” Watson said. “Students here need to prepare themselves for navigating a world that is more diverse, that is more brown and one that is frankly more urban.”

Watson said students who can empathize with others will be able to benefit from seeing the world from others perspectives.

“The key is learning empathy, that forces you to put yourself in the shoes of another,” Watson said. “It is not easy to do, but if it is done it gives you insights about yourself and others which I think are necessary in order to bring people together.”

Sophomore Corbin Hubbell attended the lecture.

“You see a lot of these current events that he is talking about going on in the news today, and a lot of the things he talked about really ring strong with Doane students,” Hubbell said.

Those in attendance valued the lecture and the message, Hubbell said.

“I was really impressed,” Hubbell said. “I thought what he said was really good, and he touched on so many different topics. He really knew what he was talking about, and the people who brought him here today knew exactly what they were doing and did a great job.”

One of the event organizers, Education Professor Marilyn Johnson Farr, said that she invited Watson because of his intelligence and kindness.

“He is in the midwest, and he is brilliant,” Johnson Farr said. “He is also kind, and generous, and humble and his level of community involvement and his ability to stand up and speak out have been far reaching across the country.”

Johnson Farr said that Watson is often encouraging others to reach their fullest potential.

“Just because he has made it to his own zenith, he is always reaching back and helping people get to their next level,” she said.

The lectureship series focuses on social justice, at the request of Polk since when he came to Doane, those conversations were not happening, Johnson Farr said.

“By the design of this particular lecture series, it is with great intention that we have to confront the issues of social justice and equity,” Johnson Farr said. "At a predominately white academy, such as this, it is very easy to dismiss, and people learn to get comfortable not talking about it.”