On Thursday afternoon, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts hosted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Convocation. The keynote speaker for 2019 was Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Richard A. Robinson.
Robinson grew up in Stamford, Connecticut and eventually graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979. He continued on to get his Juris Doctor degree from West Virginia School of Law in 1984. He served as Assistant Corporation Counsel in Stamford from 1988 up until 2000, when he was appointed Superior Court Judge. In 2007, he was appointed as a Judge of the Connecticut Appellate Court, a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2013 and eventually Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2018.
Robinson began his speech by reminiscing on times from his childhood. Being born only two short years after the horrible murder of Emmett Till, Robinson’s mother would often warn him to “be careful, mind myself and to always remember what happened to Emmett Till.”
He grew up in an environment filled with race fueled tension. His great-great-grandmother experienced the days of slavery, his own father was beat up simply for the color of his skin. He explains how as a child he “had this habit of overly questioning things” that he felt were unjust. However, during the time “that kind of thinking by a black person and even a black child could have deadly consequences.” When he went to visit his grandparents in South Carolina, Robinson immediately noticed his family members becoming tenser and even changing the way they spoke to each other and strangers. While racism was persistent everywhere, it was much more evident in the South.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a massive inspiration and influence throughout Robinson’s life. One of King’s greatest qualities was his advocacy for non-violence. He advocated that violence only multiplies violence, that “through violence you can murder the lier, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth… darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
Dr. King had faith in the good of people and in the law. When Dr. King was assassinated, Robinson recalls the tears and awful feeling in his chest. However, from that moment on, Robinson knew he wanted to end up in a place where he could make a difference and continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The road to success was not always easy. In the beginning, Robinson found it difficult to find a job. However, with the help of a mentor and a boost of morale, he landed the job as staff council in Stamford. He recalls how, occasionally, his clients would doubt his ability, and his colleagues would make highly inappropriate comments about his race. Robinson did not allow this to set him back. In fact, he prospered and did not lose one case. He was able to do so by never giving up hope and by doing more than dreaming: By taking action. While Dr. King was a dreamer, he was even more so an action taker. In fact, “I Have A Dream” is a call to action. It is up to us to continue to keep his dream and his call to action afloat. While progress has been made since the days where King was alive, there is still work to be done. We must keep moving forward, despite the struggles and setbacks.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,” Robinson quotes from Dr. King.
Richard A. Robinson’s speech was full of inspiration and insight. A wonderfully accomplished and intelligent individual, Robinson was able to shed light on important societal topics accompanied by personal anecdotes.
Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.