Civil Rights Icon Andrew Young speaks to students at North Carolina Central University, kicking off the 2016 Rock The Mic Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership. Photos: Courtesy of North Carolina Central University

Editor’s Note: This articles was produced by North Carolina Central University.

Freedom and justice are debts still owed to African-Americans in the United States despite gains made during the civil rights era, said Andrew Young, a former U.S. Ambassador and associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke in a packed auditorium of students, faculty, staff and members of the community at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

Young’s appearance was part of the university’s Rock the Mic lecture series and its annual celebration honoring King, who was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

Young was a key strategist and negotiator for civil rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was with King on his fatal trip to Memphis.

Referencing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Young said: “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

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He also highlighted in his speech the life of NCCU alumnus Maynard Jackson and his significant contributions to the Atlanta economy.

“Lessons Maynard learned here you should learn too; you must learn lessons of economic development in a capitalist society,” Young said.

“To be a good leader you must think about helping others, be nothing less than 100 percent, live by the letter of the law – even in the spirit of the law.”

Young concluded his address by advising young people to find their way through life with lessons from  others.

“Learn from others who have gone on before but don’t make the same mistakes made before,” Young said.

Young has held many positions in public office, including congressman, United Nations ambassador and mayor of Atlanta. He also served as president of the National Council of Churches USA.

Notable NCCU alumnus state Rep. H. M. Michaux Jr., was in attendance for the fellow activist’s speech.

Young’s appearance kicks-off the 2016 Rock The Mic Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership in the Division of Student Affairs that was created to bring outstanding thought-leaders to campus to encourage student engagement with relevant social, economic and political issues. Past speakers include Sybrina Fulton and Dr. Walter Kimbrough.

Dr. Angela Davis, political activist, scholar and author, is the next scheduled speaker for the Rock the Mic Lecture Series and will visit NCCU on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.