Regis students reflect on how Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and legacy inspire them today

More than 50 years after he delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of equality, service and peace live on through Regis students striving to improve their communities.

“I’m living out King’s legacy by making it known that oppression still exists,” said biology major Abbey Esbensen. As a member of student government’s Multicultural Affairs Committee, as well as the Regis Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Esbensen works to introduce others to the variety of diversity groups and events happening across campus.

“It’s really shown me how much diversity Regis has,” she said. “Now I see how diverse campus is and how much is being done to make everyone feel accepted at the University.”

Diane Elio remembers sitting in her middle school science class when the teacher announced King had been assassinated. Elio, who is completing a master’s degree in nonprofit management, recalls the fear that persisted throughout 1968 after the murders of King and Sen. Robert “Bobby” Kennedy.  Her work with Denver Catholic Charities keeps King’s message of equality front and center for Elio.

“I’m mindful every day of his legacy and what it means to the clients we serve,” she said. To practice that mindfulness, Elio focuses on meeting people where they are, avoiding flash judgments and learning more about the external factors affecting her clients.

Senior Shannon Hayes believes that creating unity begins internally. The peace and justice studies major and current president of the Student Government Association said she focuses on personally living and acting in a compassionate way.

“I try to live out the nonviolent code of thought, language and action,” she said.

King’s message is a universal one, said Sandra Mitchell, Regis’ chief diversity officer. "His legacy is not just about people of color. It’s about all people united. It’s a legacy of peace and that applies to everyone,” she said.

Join the Regis community in a week of events commemorating Dr. King’s legacy.