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C.T. Vivian's Excellent Trip to Macomb

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Rich Egger
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The Reverend C.T. Vivian received a standing ovation before and after his speech at Macomb Junior-Senior High School.

The civil rights leader grew up in the western Illinois community, which paid homage to him during a three day visit that coincided with homecoming at Western Illinois University.

A ceremony was held to mark the renaming of the library at Macomb Junior-Senior High School in Dr. Vivian’s honor; the stretch of North Lafayette St. from University Dr. to the intersection with Route 136 was given the honorary designation “Dr C T Vivian Way;” and he served as Grand Marshal for WIU’s homecoming.

These are the just latest honors given to recognize a life filled with achievement.  In 2013 Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor given in the United States.

“I was part of the non-violent team that made it possible for Martin King to have the victory over segregation and racism. It would not have worked had we not been non-violent,” Vivian told reporters after the library dedication.

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Credit Rich Egger
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Vivian eschewed the podium and spoke from the center of the stage – with no notes – for more than 25 minutes. “It takes all of us to make the rest of us decent enough that we can all have a better life. And I want to thank you for that better life,” Vivian told the audience that filled the auditorium at the junior-senior high.

In addition to his work with the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, Vivian provided civil rights counsel to Presidents Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama, he’s been involved with numerous civil rights and justice groups, and he currently serves as Board Chair of BASIC Diversity, Inc.

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Credit Rich Egger
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Macomb School Board member Jim LaPrad, C.T. Vivian, and former school board member Chris Sutton (left to right). LaPrad and Sutton suggested the school district name something after Vivian.

Vivian is 91 but it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to slow down.  “What I’m afraid of right now is that the billionaires that are putting (huge sums of money) into electing their own people and a Supreme Court that allows money to be used as the vote. How long will we have before we do not really have a democratic society? That’s the real fear. And I hope before I die, I will at least be in on (rectifying) that,” Vivian said. “Another whole movement is needed. Democracy is what it’s all about.”

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Credit Rich Egger
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A stretch of North Lafayette St now carries an honorary designation recognizing Dr. Vivian. “Why wouldn’t we take the opportunity as his adopted essential hometown (Vivian was born in Missouri, his family moved to Macomb when he was young) to reach out and say how proud we are of you? And we want to make sure we tell the whole world we have a connection.” -- Mayor Mike Inman

He said people are already working on the issue; it’s just a matter of how it will get done. He believes the day has passed when movements need a great leader – he said progress should come from people believing in democracy and decency.

“Few people in American actually vote. That’s a loser’s way. We must be voting to win and maintain democracy in America,” Vivian said.

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Credit Rich Egger
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(From left to right): Mayor Mike Inman, Byron Oden Shabazz, Dr. Vivian, WIU President Jack Thomas, and Macomb Alderman at Large Don Wynn. “He (Vivian) was the pioneer and he’s the reason why I was able to be in positions like this.” – Don Wynn, the only African-American currently serving on the Macomb City Council.

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Credit Rich Egger
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Dr Vivian capped off his weekend in Macomb with the WIU homecoming parade.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.