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NPR host Michele Norris to headline MLK Jr. celebration

Michele Norris' talk on Jan. 24 will address the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Michele Norris, the award-winning host of NPR’s popular All Things Considered program, will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, Jan. 24, for Lehigh’s annual celebration of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Norris’s talk will headline a week of activities that run January 21-25 and are dedicated to honoring the work of the slain civil rights leader.

In decades of reporting, Norris has interviewed world leaders, Nobel laureates, Oscar winners, American presidents, military leaders, influential newsmakers and even astronauts traveling in outer space.

She joined NPR in 2002, after nearly 10 years as a reporter for ABC News in its Washington, D.C., bureau. She also worked as a staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

Norris has received numerous awards for her work, earning both an Emmy Award and Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC News’ coverage of 9/11. She is a four-time Pulitzer Prize entrant.

In 2009, she was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists. The NABJ recognized Norris for her body of work, in addition to her coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign—when she co-hosted NPR’s Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, covered both conventions, anchored multi-hour election and inauguration live broadcasts, and moderated a series of candid conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics. That series earned Norris and Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcasting.

In 1990, Norris received the Livingston Award for a series about a six-year-old boy who lived in a crack house. That series was reprinted in the book, Ourselves Among Others, along with essays by Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Annie Dillard and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In her 2010 book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, Norris offered a soul-searching tome that unearthed long hidden family secrets that raised questions about her own racial legacy and shed new light on America’s complicated racial history.

She attended the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in electrical engineering, and graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she studied journalism.

Old challenges, new realities

Centered on the 50th anniversary year of King’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech,” this year’s celebration of King’s birthday will examine old challenges and new realities. An opening ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 20, in Baker Hall and members of the Lehigh community will present reflections on that theme.

Other events will include a “Day of Education” devoted to social justice issues, an interfaith breakfast, the annual convocation and award ceremony that will feature Norris’s talk, community service, and an experiential trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the MLK Jr. Memorial.

“Our idea is to look at how far we have come since 1963 and how far we have left to go beginning in 2013,” says Tyrone Russell, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and co-chair of the MLK Jr. planning committee.

“While the challenges are seemingly different, we recognize that the idea of practice of oppression and exclusion still exist in a very real way. Our focus the entire week will be asking people to reflect on challenges but more importantly, demanding that they begin to create new realities.”

Other members of this year’s MLK planning committee are: Lloyd Steffen, co-chair; Veronica Hunter, Gordon Moskowitz, Silagh White, Karen Sims, Nelson Tansu, Kathy Folenta, Rita Jones, Brandon Morris, Courtney Jones, James Peterson, Seth Goren and David Zelaya.

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012

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