Junior Sarah Jones didn't know what to expect when the Rev. A.D. Washington stood up to give her sermon in chapel.
Washington, a senior pastor of Asbury-Mount Olive United Methodist Church in Topeka, was the guest preacher chosen to speak at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Clarice. L. Osborne Memorial Chapel Jan. 24.
"Every year we have a King celebration," Minister to the University Ira DeSpain said. "I've known her for years. We are part of the same denomination and go to the same meetings, and I thought she would be a good speaker."
Washington began her sermon, entitled "Choose to See," by talking about the differences between everyone on campus.
"The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is to not put one person above the other, but to know that we can't be happy unless we are open to new people every day," she said. "Let us not walk backward, but rather, let us walk forward."
DeSpain said he thought students gained a sense of appreciation for the day that they otherwise might not have.
"It seemed as though students responded strongly and well to her message," he said. "They had a really emotional response. They learned to take risks, to talk to someone who isn't like you, and that sometimes that's not easy."
Jones said she enjoyed the sermon because of Washington's style and approach.
Throughout her sermon, Washington used humor to relate to students, Jones said, often comparing diversity and differences to the ingredients of stew.
"I may be an onion and on my own you might not like me," Washington said. "But when I hang with a burger, you'll like me a whole lot better."
DeSpain said Washington's manner is something he thought students could relate to.
"I really like her style," he said. "The things she said about the stew were great because we should value what everybody brings to our cultural table."
Washington said she really wanted to convey the importance of the day to Baker students.
"We enjoy this day because in our differences, we share God," she said. "Today we celebrate looking different and being OK with it."
After the sermon, DeSpain said the Baker community responded with a standing ovation for Washington.
"Not everyone is given a standing ovation," he said. "Likewise, it's no small thing to have a day named after you. We remember on that day the name of one of the greatest men of the 20th century-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."
DeSpain said students have a chance to make a difference at Baker by following King's message.
"We have an opportunity here. A lot of the places we come from are homogenous," he said. "College is a time when people have the chance to explore our differences. And I think that enriches us."
For students like Jones, it was Washington's enthusiasm that really carried the message across and made her want to branch out.
"She had a really good sense of humor even though it was a serious topic," she said. "We were able to laugh, and then we were able to learn something."