Two blocks away, a glow of artificial light polishes the dome of the Kansas Capitol Building. Already, cars pulse their way along Topeka Boulevard. Beyond the waning reds of passing cars and the dark silhouettes of downtown buildings, a blue dawn warms the southeastern sky. Sketches of trees fill the lower gaps as morning makes its coming.
We have spent the night here in order to be with friends today in a unique moment, an event unlike any other that we have known.
Mark Flickinger is a painter, professor, department chairperson (Cowley College) and artist. He is also a dear brother. He and Dianne raised four children together, for several years living the lean life of a professional artist in Kansas.
Five years ago Mark began this journey, this pursuit, this dream. The Kansas State Legislature is seeking to place a mural in one of the Capitol wings. A mural commemorating a United States Supreme court decision that held that all citizens of this country should be treated equally, that regardless of the color of their skin, their children should receive an education worthy of citizens of this country. That case was born right here in this city.
In its Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruling, the Supreme Court officially declared that it was not consistent with the principles on which the nation was formed that children of poverty should be intellectually impoverished. De facto segregation, the court ruled, was de facto discrimination. And in 2011, folks in the state capitol decided that there should be something in the State Capitol to honor the significance of that court case and the change and hope it has brought to millions of lives.
And so, they announced a competition. Mark Flickinger, whose heart and mind find truth, justice and love to be ideals worthy of pursuit, entered the competition.
Eventually, his proposed mural came to be one of four selected by the folks who do the selecting. In a couple of hours, that group will open the final phase of the competition in that building with the shining dome just two blocks away from here. One by one, Mark and the other finalists will present their design, explain their concept and answer questions from the committee. By the end of the day, we believe, the committee will announce its selection.
I have prayed and continue praying that God will grant Mark wisdom and grace this morning and that he will find favor with this group. I believe that his mural concept “Love your neighbor” is very much at the heart of the Supreme Court decision being commemorated. I believe that it expresses both the nature of the case and its intended legacy of justice and hope. I know that with Mark and Dianne Flickinger, that concept is very much at the heart of who they are, what they believe and how they live.
Regardless of how the day ends, it is an honor to be here for this today. I shall continue praying.