Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Last Update at 11:33 PM EDT

By Katie Mettler | IDS

POSTED AT 10:40 PM ON Jan. 16, 2012  (UPDATED AT 10:40 PM ON Jan. 16, 2012)

The diverse crowd that gathered at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington Monday night represented a dream come true for the man who inspired the event.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the City of Bloomington sponsored “Affirming the Legacy,” a program laced with messages of community service and colored with tones of soulful praise.

IU Professor Keith McCutchen accompanied the crowd on piano as they opened with the first and last verses of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Lee Hamilton, keynote speaker and director of the Center on Congress at IU, spoke of his personal encounters with King in the early 1960s, recounting his memories of King’s modest appeal and charismatic personality.

“Because of him, this country is more free, more fair, more just,” Hamilton said. “He stirred our conscience as very few have ever done. He became the single most auspicious figure of protests and hope this country has ever produced.”

Hamilton then challenged the audience of students, community members and political representatives to delve deeper into what King’s legacy truly means.

“He was a far more complex person than I have at least understood,” he said. “There is a danger in remembering him that we lose the complexities of the man and his interdictions.”

Representing the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, MCBC Vice President Iris Kiesling asked those in attendance what legacies they were leaving and challenged all to start a new service legacy in the name of King.

Music was woven throughout the program with performances by A Men, a local all-male a capella group, which sang “Round Midnight” by Thelonious S. Monk and “Blackbird” by the Beatles. Fifteen members of the IU African American Choral Ensemble performed pieces they have been working on in class, including “I’ve Been Buked” by Hall Johnson.

“It’s really special because we don’t just have vocal performance majors, but all sorts of majors,” said doctoral student and ensemble member Johanna Moffitt.

Although Mayor Mark Kruzan could not attend due to illness, Beverly Calender-Anderson from the City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department presented the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award to Chancellor John Whikehart from Ivy Tech Community College. Whikehart was honored for his efforts in civic engagement at Ivy Tech in Bloomington.

“John Whikehart does not only talk the talk, he walks the walk,” Calendar-Anderson said.

IU President Michael McRobbie offered remarks about the University’s continuing efforts to promote diversity on campus, but said “we must acknowledge there is still much to be done.”

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.