He was in Washington, D.C. when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he had a dream. He marched from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate for African-Americans’ voting rights. He’s a respected religious leader. And he’s speaking at BYU on Thursday, Jan. 21.
The Rev. France Davis is visiting BYU this week to speak about civic involvement and service.
Davis grew up in Georgia, but has been a minister at the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City for more than 40 years. He’s an advocate for civic issues and was once described by former U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson as a “voice of reason and sound judgment to transcend social divisions.”
The reverend’s lecture at BYU comes three days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring a man that Davis knew personally. Davis was a teenager when he listened to King’s famous speech at the March on Washington and when he followed King on the historic march through Alabama.
BYU’s Office of Civic Engagement invited Davis to address students because of his experience in the civil rights movement and activism in the community.
“Pastor Davis brings perspective,” said Dr. Richard Davis, director of the Office of Civic Engagement. “For the last 40 years, he’s been a force in trying to improve Salt Lake. He’s a model of someone who has been very much engaged in trying to make his community better, not just his church.”
It’s important for BYU students to know that their civic engagement isn’t limited to their callings in their wards, Dr. Davis said. The reverend is an example of someone who serves both in his church and in the community.
Rev. Davis taught communication and ethnic studies courses at the University of Utah. His church feeds the homeless in Salt Lake’s Pioneer Park every Sunday morning. He is also the current vice chair of the Utah Board of Regents and has participated on many other committees throughout the years.
“Our responsibility is as citizens in the broader society,” Dr. Davis said. “And that’s a reminder Pastor Davis brings. That can help students understand that our obligation doesn’t stop at the church door. We also have an obligation to be a positive influence in the larger communities where we live.”
Dr. Davis said the reverend’s example teaches that involvement influences communities for good.
“Students can make a difference too,” Dr. Davis said. “They too can be involved in the community. They too can be willing to give their time to others beyond the church callings they have. So I hope they get that message.”
The Office of Civic Engagement helps students and faculty improve their community involvement. The office hosts lectures and workshops to educate the BYU community, and the office also offers a minor to students.
Rev. Davis will speak in the Varsity Theater on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m.