How far have we come? Experts discuss race relations

On the day we celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we've asked three prominent figures in DuPage County to share their views on the state of race relations in our country — particularly in the wake of recent unrest in places as different in size and scope as New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.

Vince Gaddis is a professor of history at Benedictine University in Lisle. Stephen Maynard Caliendo is a professor of political science at North Central College in Naperville and chairman of the Human Thought and Behavior Division. Mario Lambert, former president of the DuPage County NAACP, is a diversity-centered leadership consultant and founder of the @advancetogether initiative.

All three are experts in race relations and diversity and we asked them all the same question: Nearly 50 years after King's death, how far have we really come toward making his dream a reality? Here's what they had to say …

Stephen Maynard Caliendo

A professor of political science at North Central College in Naperville, Stephen Maynard Caliendo notes we are celebrating the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of visible civil unrest. “At a minimum, we might stop to be thankful for Dr. King's leadership, vision and dedication to leaving the world (all too soon) a better place than he found it. But to what do we owe the struggle beyond that?” Caliendo asks. “If this day is to mean more than mattress sales, we have to critically examine what it means to strive for social justice in the 21st century.” Read his essay.

Vince Gaddis

As America reflects on the message and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Benedictine University history professor Vince Gaddis says the nation is at a crossroads. Issues of race and authority have been brought to the fore in recent months and, he says, the nation must answer questions to build a more inclusive community. Read his essay.

Mario L. Lambert II

While DuPage County has made progress toward racial equality, civic leader Mario Lambert believes there's still plenty of work to do. “Talking about race should not be taboo. It should be an opportunity for us to learn more about each other. We can't embrace what we don't know,” he says. “More importantly, we can't leverage the benefit of our diverse populations if we don't allow their voice and opinions to matter.” Read his essay.

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Time for Americans to ask questions about race, equality

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MLK holiday: 'Selma' stars including Oprah march

In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed 250,000 people rallying in Washington, D. C., for racial equality. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech that continues to provide a gauge against which the nation can measure its progress toward equality. Today, as we celebrate King's life, we reflect on his legacy. Associated Press File Photo

In search of a civil discussion

You've had the chance to read what our panel of experts thinks about the state of race relations as we enter the new year, but do you agree? If you'd like to share your views, please — in 100 words or less — write to us at Please include your name, town and a daytime phone number.

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