CMDS Welcomes Former Mayor A C Wharton as Chapel Speaker on MLK50

Christ Methodist Day School was honored to welcome a special guest speaker to our Chapel service Wednesday morning. Former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton spoke to our students about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., specifically his leadership and legacy.

He told them that the most important quality a leader can possess is the ability to put others first.

“When you learn to put others first, you’ll be surprised to see how others will follow you. That’s leadership,” he said.

He referenced Dr. King’s sacrifices as a leader. When he came to Memphis 50 years ago to help the striking sanitation workers, Dr. King was not protesting and speaking out for himself, a college-educated family man who had everything he needed. He could have stayed home, but he knew those men needed him.

In Dr. King’s famous 1963 speech at the March on Washington, he said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Mr. Wharton said it was telling that of all the things he could have talked about, Dr. King chose to talk about the dreams he had for his own children.

Mr. Wharton’s speech at CMDS was a small way to celebrate MLK50 on our campus. Events have taken place citywide for the past year as a way to commemorate and remember Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Mr. Wharton, who is a CMDS grandparent, referenced Isaiah 11:6 – “and a little child shall lead them” – as a motivation to the students.

“You are in a position to lead. Today. Now,” he said.

He also shared with our students the origins of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The hospital’s founder Danny Thomas was called to build the hospital in Memphis that would be fully integrated, helping all desperately ill boys and girls regardless of race, religion or financial status.

As he talked of great leaders like Dr. King and Mr. Thomas, Mr. Wharton wanted our students to hear that learning to lead at an early age is important.

“Don’t wait until you leave Christ Methodist Day School to get started,” Mr. Wharton said. “Get started right now.”

Leadership at CMDS

CMDS makes Leadership a focus, and an elementary school inherently offers opportunity for young students to lead. At CMDS, 12-year-olds are the big kids on campus. So at an early age, our students are taking the lead in the school musical and campaigning for Student Council.

We have a Shepherd Leadership Team that all 3rd through 6th graders are invited to join. The Leadership Team was a vision of Dr. Bryan Williams when he began his tenure as CMDS Head of School in 2014. Led by faculty member Kathy DeFreece, team members use their recess time to fill various leadership roles around campus and attend monthly meetings.

Sometimes they serve as greeters during carpool and Chapel. There’s a group that sorts through the Lost and Found, looking for sweatshirts and other items labeled with students’ names and returning them. The list goes on: scripture readers, marquee helpers and a number of students who serve lunch during Christ United Methodist Church’s SALT (Seasoned Adults Learning Together) monthly events.

We also have a Student Council, a chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society and various other clubs and groups where our students are in charge: boys and girls, given the same opportunity to collaborate and solve problems together, emboldened to lead their peers.

Practice, Shoot and Make Your Free Throws

Our students enjoyed Mr. Wharton’s leadership basketball analogy, which imparted some wise steps students can take to get started as a leader. Here’s a summary of his analogy:

  1. Practice, whether it’s doing your homework on time, to the best of your ability, or letting others go ahead of you in the lunch line. If you practice well, you will play well, and school is a great place to practice.
  2. Shoot, shoot, shoot. If you don’t shoot, you’ll definitely miss. Even if you get called a “ball hog,” don’t let anyone trash talk you out of your game. Keep shooting and keep trying.
  3. Always take advantage of the free throws, the things that are given to you. They are can’t-miss opportunities you need to make sure you take.

CMDS students also created and shared this acrostic poem, which highlights characteristics of Dr. King that stand out to them:

Devoted to God
Reach for excellence

Know you are worthy
Inspires us 50 years later
Never stopped leading by example
Great American who changed our world

Christ Methodist Day School first opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. We encourage you to come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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