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Andrew Gillum to Highlight Duke's MLK Commemoration Events

Former mayor Andrew Gillum has continued Martin Luther King's legacy in fighting for political rights for the disenfranchised.
Former mayor Andrew Gillum has continued Martin Luther King's legacy in fighting for political rights for the disenfranchised.

Former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum will deliver the keynote address for Duke University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 19.

Gillum, the Florida Democratic Party’s first African-American nominee for governor, will speak on “the power of the people,” the commemoration theme. The program in Duke University Chapel is open to the public.

In March 2019, Gillum launched the voter outreach organization Bring It Home Florida and vowed to register one million new voters in Florida before this year’s presidential election. Gillum, who lost the gubernatorial race to Gov. Ron DeSantis by less than a half a point, is now a CNN contributor.

Andrew Gillium with students at Duke in 2009

The 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration won’t be Andrew Gillum’s first visit to Duke. Pictured, he meets with students in 2009 as part of the Hart Leadership Program’s Connect2Politics program. At the time, Gillum was a young mayor of Tallahassee city commissioner, having been elected in 2003 at the age of 23. He later served a term as the city’s 126th mayor.

Gillum was an ideal leader to bring to speak at the Connect2Politics program, which promotes student engagement with political issues and actors by hosting gatherings with political practitioners, with a focus on young leaders. But Gillum wasn’t the only star of the 2009 class: Current US Senator Cory Booker also visited the program. Other speakers in later years included Julian Castro in 2014 and Pete Buttigieg in 2015. 

Gillum has called Florida a “one percent state,” noting that the last three presidential races were decided by just one percent of the vote. Gillum joins Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia, in fighting for voting rights.

The annual program will link King’s civil rights legacy to the continuing struggle for equity and justice in all facets of our society. Other highlights of the Duke Chapel program include performances by the Duke Amandla Chorus and The Collage Dance Company, as well as greetings from Duke University President Vincent Price, Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. A. Eugene Washington, Duke Black Student Association Vice President De’Ja Wood and Durham Mayor Steve Schewel.

The event starts at 3 p.m. Free parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage (see map at and a live webcast of the commemoration will stream at

“As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, we really wanted a speaker who would be positive and inspirational at this moment, and someone who is working toward the common good,” said Kimberly Hewitt, vice president for Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity.

Other campus events, which are also free and open to the public, include:

  • 11 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 19, Duke Chapel: The Rev. Dr. Soong Chan Rah, professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, is the guest preacher during the chapel’s regular worship service. He was founding senior pastor of Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, Cambridge, Mass., a multi-ethnic, urban ministry-focused church committed to living out the values of racial reconciliation and social justice in the urban context. A livestream of the service is available on the Chapel website and a recording is available afterwards.
  • 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, Sanford School for Public Policy, 201 Science Drive, Fleishman Commons: A program with Dikgang Moseneke, former deputy chief justice of South Africa and a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke during the spring semester. Moseneke, author of the memoir “My Own Liberator,” will reflect on some of his life experiences through an interview conducted by Catherine Admay, a lecturer in the Sanford School, and professor Karin Shapiro of Duke’s African and African American Studies Department. A reception and book signing will follow. The event will be livestreamed to the Sanford School’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
  • 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Jan. 30-31, Rubenstein Arts Center, 2020 Campus Drive, von der Heyden Studio Theater: “From Myth to Man: Martin Luther King, An Interpretation,” a one-man play featuring actor John Ivey as the civil rights leader, created and presented by Duke Division of Student Affairs staff member Ira Knight, who is a playwright, producer, director and author. Following each performance, Knight and Ivey will welcome questions and conversation with the audience. “From Myth to Man” is supported by Duke Arts through the Rubenstein Arts Center arts project program. No reservations required; free special event parking.

Learn more about this year’s commemoration at