Contact: Allison Matthews
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Oktibbeha County Justice Court Judge Larnzy L. Carpenter Jr. challenged an overflow crowd at Mississippi State University to embrace faith, hope and love as keys to developing a sense of dignity and self-respect during Monday’s [Jan. 16] Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Breakfast.
More than 1,000 community members gathered at The Mill at MSU to celebrate King’s legacy with the 23rd annual event and to remember the Nobel Peace Prize winner who dedicated his life to advancing civil rights while maintaining a steadfast commitment to nonviolence and love. The university's Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion organizes the event, with support from campus and community sponsors.
“We’re all gathered here today to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.,” said Carpenter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Longview. A 1980 Starkville High School graduate who went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a member of the Presidential Honor Guard under former President Ronald Reagan, Carpenter also has extensive law enforcement experience.
During his address, he emphasized how each person is important and every individual can play a valuable role in advancing unity.
“You cannot lead if you’re not investing. You have to invest in your community, and there is no excuse. It does not matter what side of the tracks you come from. It does not matter what town you live in. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is.”
He issued a special challenge to men in the audience to take care of and provide for their families. He also shared the philosophy that everyone should work for continual improvement and excellence in all they do.
“If you’re a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper. If you’re working in the sanitation department, be the best; if you’re a teacher, be the best,” he said, adding, “You can be whatever it is that you need to be to make a difference.”
Carpenter highlighted some of King’s most famous quotes, including “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” King also said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
MSU President Mark E. Keenum said MSU is the most diverse university in the Southeastern Conference and the most diverse land-grant institution in the nation. Minority students account for more than 25 percent of MSU’s student body.
“I can tell you that we’re very blessed, we’re very enriched and empowered because of the rich diversity that we enjoy, and it is increasing every year on our campus,” Keenum said.
“Education gives young people the greatest potential to change the world. We provide an excellent education at Mississippi State, but as educators it’s not just important for us to provide knowledge of a discipline that a young person chooses to study. We have a greater calling, and that’s to help our young people know how to be good human beings,” Keenum said.
Keenum thanked Carpenter for being an outstanding leader in the community and a man of faith who also has been a friend for several years since Keenum took the top leadership position at the university eight years ago.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman also presented Carpenter with a proclamation designating Jan. 17, 2017, as Larnzy Carpenter Jr. Day in Starkville.
Following the breakfast, the university’s Maroon Volunteer Center coordinated the MLK Jr. Day of Service activities throughout the local community, with students and other volunteers working at the Palmer Home for Children, Habitat for Humanity Resale Store, Camp Seminole, Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, and Christian World Missions, among others.
Cade Smith, a board member for Volunteer Starkville and MSU assistant dean and director for the university’s Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement, said service makes the annual holiday “a day on, rather than a day off.”
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.