As a former history professor at Utah State University, Ross Peterson is used to speaking in front of college students and having discussions with them.So things will be a little different Tuesday when Peterson, now serving as USU’s vice president for university advancement, speaks to a group of middle school students about Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Civil Rights movement.”It’s always a little different to go to a middle school when you’ve spent your career with college students,” Peterson said on KVNU’s Crosstalk show Tuesday. “This has always been a topic I think that’s interesting to young people.”Peterson said he planned to tell the students a little bit about how so much of the history of the Civil Rights movement was carried on the backs of children.”In many cases it was young children that really had to bear the brunt with their families of the school integration cases,” he said. “Some of them were the victims of really horrendous violence.”Now, more than 40 years after the heat of the Civil Rights movement, Peterson said we’re progressing as a people, becoming more and more inclusive of the “we” in the Constitutional phrase, “we the people.””For the most part people are trying to expand the ‘we’ and include more and more folks in the history of the United States,” Peterson said. “I think in many respects that’s what this holiday is about.”Ultimately, Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Civil Rights Day as it is called in some places, is a holiday celebrating human dignity, he said.”Those things are all national themes and I think one of the great themes that comes out of this particular holiday is the dignity of each human being,” he said, noting that when he spoke to the middle school students he hoped to point out how important it is that young people realize all the possibilities they’ll have in their lives.
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