Keeney Peace Lecture


Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.

Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.

A call for the ‘Transformative Stardom of Ordinary People’

During Bluffton University’s annual Keeney Peace Lecture, Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr. called on members of the campus community to “courageously use their resources, platforms and privilege to disrupt and dismantle policies that discriminate and decimate.”

Sullivan, an ordained minister, executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches and anti-death penalty activist, shared the message during the March 9 Forum, “The Transformative Stardom of Ordinary People.”

Sullivan lamented the many news headlines that glorify the scandals and controversies identified with the names and brands of celebrities while reflecting on time spent with his children gazing at the night sky.

“Entertainment stars streak across our screens for a relatively short time and like a Fourth of July rocket, they’re gone, fizzled out,” said Sullivan. “In contrast, I think what we need to remember is that real stars possess endurance and are built to shine because they have eternal energy systems that produce light. Real stars do not absorb light from the universe. Instead, they cast light in the darkness because they contain the light.”

While outlining discriminatory policies in the United States, Sullivan connected the slave patrol policing of the 1800s to militarized and violence-prone police tactics used today such as no-knock warrants. He also drew a line from the forced labor of enslaved Africans to substandard health care, inadequate education and disproportionate suffering from COVID-19 in black and brown communities.

“These realities and so many more demonstrate our nation’s blaring need for real star power,” said Sullivan. “I’m talking about plain old ordinary everyday people, women and men and youth in your house and my house and in school houses and faith houses.”

Sullivan provided examples for how people can show up for justice by highlighting the work of anti-death penalty activists who are connected by the murders of their loved ones. These activists, Sullivan explained, develop creative partnerships, mobilize for social justice and overcome their fears to proclaim the dignity of human life.

“These stars embrace the eternal truth that Martin Luther King Jr. taught us about light and love when he said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,’” said Sullivan. “You do not have to go very far to find these kind of stars. They are all around us. Many of them are you.”

Watch Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.'s full presentation >