‘Be able to tell your story, to say you are blessed’: Freeman A. Hrabowski speaks in BYU forum

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Freeman A. Hrabowski speaks in BYU forum. Hrabowski related his life experiences. (Jonas Wright)

Freeman A. Hrabowski, president emeritus of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, shared what he has learned from his life experiences — including marching through Selma with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — in a BYU forum.

“You and I are of the privileged group,” he said. “We are going out to serve, to help those who are the least of these.”

His story began as a young boy, sitting in the back of a church where King was a guest speaker, he said.

He remembered King said, “And if the children participate in this peaceful protest, all of America will know that even our young people know the difference between right and wrong, and that they want a better education.”

After his parents allowed him to participate, 12-year-old Hrabowski marched to Selma City Hall. When the police chief asked him what he wanted to do, Hrabowski said, “Sir, we want to kneel and pray for our freedom. To go to school. That’s all we want.”

The police chief looked down on him, spat on him and took him to jail for five days, which Hrabowski described as a horrific experience. As awful as it was, he said it taught him many lessons.

“You can hate what somebody does but the idea of loving and knowing that we are children of God, that faith is more important,” he said.

BYU students are in a place that’s admired by the world because their education goes beyond to the entire world, Hrabowski said.

When he asked how many students had or were planning to serve a mission, a large number of students raised their hands.

“There’s nowhere in the country where I would go and see that kind of response. That makes you blessed,” he said.

Hrabowski expressed his desire for students to remember to follow their passion. He said his passion is to produce more people who look like him, who could be excited about the work.

“What you want to be able to do is to tell your story, your journey, not to say that you’re so great, but rather to say you are so blessed,” he said.

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