Clarence Jones, an adviser and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., was rendered speechless for a moment last week after watching seven New Albany High School drama students interpret his book, "Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation."

Clarence Jones, an adviser and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., was rendered speechless for a moment last week after watching seven New Albany High School drama students interpret his book, "Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation."

"I'm overwhelmed at having the privilege of seeing a dramatic presentation of the words which I wrote," Jones said. "I'm so grateful."

Prior to the dramatic presentation, Jones and local businessman Leslie Wexner spoke April 20 to an audience of students from New Albany and several other central Ohio high schools.

The program, held at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, was part of the Leslie H. Wexner Leadership Academy and provided Wexner the opportunity to ask Jones some questions about his life and his career, questions that focused on his development as a leader.

Jones said he went to a Catholic boarding school at age 6. He stayed there until entering a public high school and said the nuns instilled a strong sense of worth in him, along with providing him with an excellent education.

During high school, Jones said, teachers and a principal served as mentors and he encouraged the students to seek out people who can help them.

Those teachers and the principal continued to help guide his career even after he graduated, he said. When they learned he was enlisting in the military to pay for college, they raised some funds to help Jones apply to several colleges. They then helped him apply for scholarships. Jones attended The Julliard School on a scholarship to study music.

Jones emphasized the importance of education.

"I learned early on that it was important to educate myself," he said. "Education was encouraged, celebrated."

Jones recounted some defining moments in his life when he faced adversity and had to overcome it. One was at age 10, when the family that employed his parents in service jobs took him on a trip to the beach.

Jones went along on the trip and was riding his bicycle when he said some white boys surrounded him and started calling him names. They accused him of stealing the bicycle.

Jones rode back crying to the place where the family was staying. He told his mother what happened and she pulled him in front of a mirror and asked him what he saw. Through tears, Jones said, he was unsure what he saw and was confused. She asked him several more times before saying, "What you see is the most beautiful thing God has created. You don't have to worry about what those boys say."

Jones again faced a difficult situation when he was drafted into the military. Even though he had been recognized as model soldier, he said, he was given a dishonorable discharge because he would not sign the military's loyalty pledge. Jones said even though he was loyal to the military and to the country, he could not sign the pledge because he felt at the time like a second-class citizen. By not signing the pledge, he was considered a security risk and thereby given a dishonorable discharge. Jones said he found someone to help him fight the ruling and eventually was able to get it overturned. He used the money he earned through military service to go to law school.

Jones also spoke about his work with King. Jones said he always remembered the night that King called him "a wintertime soldier." He explained to the audience that he and King were staying in a motel room in 1962 when King mentioned the phrase. Jones said King's words were: "Anyone can stand with you in the warm summer sunlight on an August day, but only a wintertime soldier stands with you at midnight in the alpine cull of winter."

Before taking questions from the students, Jones asked Wexner a few questions, including how the civil-rights movement affected him.

Wexner said he, too, learned about social injustice at an early age and decided that he wanted to help "put society in balance." He said his father, whom he respected, said it's OK to think that way but no one can change the course of the world. Wexner said he came to learn that his father was wrong and he set out to influence the world.

"I had the purpose to influence the world to be a little better, even if you only can move it a fraction of an inch," Wexner said.

Jones complimented Wexner on his legacy of helping many organizations throughout his philanthropic career.

"I want to be sure that I publically say in your presence that a journey starts with one step," Jones said. "Whatever the journey you have contemplated is, you have taken more than just one step. You leave a legacy and values that will endure."

The Leslie H. Wexner Leadership Academy was started through the New Albany Community Foundation by a gift from Steve and Judy Tuckerman of New Albany. Judy Tuckerman said they gave the academy fund to Wexner as a gift for his 70th birthday.

All sophomores, juniors and seniors from New Albany High School were in attendance, as well as high school students and administrators from Africentric, Columbus Academy, Columbus School for Girls, DeSales, Franklin Heights, Gahanna-Jefferson, Grandview Heights, Johnstown-Monroe, Licking Heights and Olentangy.

"It's so good to have students from around the county," Steve Tuckerman said. "We need to try to incorporate that more."