Intelligence, character stressed at Martin Luther King celebration

Staff photo by Haley Hughes Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. keynote speaker Demetrius McCoy, left, speaks with Aja Vaughn, right, after the event. Vaughn is associate director of Student Life-Diversity Initiatives at USC Aiken.

Intelligence and character are not mutually exclusive tools for finding success in college and in life, according to several speakers at the 2013 Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who echoed the noted civil rights leader’s philosophy.

The event, presented by USC Aiken and Aiken Technical College, was inspired by words King wrote in Morehouse College’s student newspaper: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

No matter how intelligent a person may be, if he is lacking in character, he will only go so far, said keynote speaker Demetrius McCoy.

“When you build character, that will take you as far as you want to go,” he said.

McCoy, a speaker and youth pastor who recently graduated from Paine College, explained that several important keys to building character are keeping an open mind and not giving in to false judgments, learning from mistakes and working through challenges.

“What you see as a challenge is just the thing that propels you into success,” he said.

Building intelligence, McCoy continued, is thinking for oneself, not allowing learning to become stagnant and thinking critically.

“We must ever be progressing in our learning. That’s when we reach character and intelligence,” he said.

Included during the event was an award presentation to the winner of the “Legacy of King” essay contest. The winner is USCA freshman Jamie Clifton, who could not be present due to her class schedule.

USCA chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan and Aiken Tech President Dr. Susan Winsor both commented that it was incredibly fitting that the two institutions come together to remember King’s plea for unity and positive change.

“He was a man who changed America for the better. Let us look past the difficulties of last year and look forward to what we can be,” Jordan said.