More than a half century after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the slain civil rights leader’s call to action – addressing “the fierce urgency of now” – felt as important as ever.

Nearly 200 people gathered on Jan. 21 for the 19th annual MLK breakfast in Connor Ballroom.

The keynote speaker for the event was Lyle Foster, assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University. In 2015, he established the Tough Talks initiative, sparking conversations about diversity and inclusion issues across campus.

He spoke at MSSU about the importance of protecting King’s dream.

“It’s going to take more than watching Netflix,” Foster said. “It’s going to take more than a tweet. We need to envision (his) dream in contemporary times … and see ‘all God’s children’ in a broader context than we ever have before.

“I hope our being here this morning is evidence we want to protect the dream.”

The annual event was established by the late Dr. Al Cade, the former dean of the School of Education who passed away in 2015. During the breakfast, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee announced the recipients of the Dr. Al Cade Beacon of Hope Service Awards, which honor students for their volunteer service.

This year’s recipient was senior international business major Joe Blank. His service efforts included raising $4,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and supporting a number of other community and student projects.

Also recognized was the Kappa Alpha Order’s Delta-Pi chapter. The group’s 26 members compiled more than 3,300 service hours in the Joplin area.

Following the breakfast, those attending were invited to participate in the annual Day of Service. Participants were able to volunteer for a few hours at Spring River Christian Village, the Salvation Army and the university’s new Lion Co-op food pantry.