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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Remarks

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Today we celebrate the legacy of one of our nation’s most influential leaders. In doing so, we should consider the ways, large and small, we can build upon the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As a pastor and a civil rights advocate, Dr. King’s life continues to inspire people across the United States and around the world. He led by example, standing alongside the oppressed, and personally championing the policies and practices that provide opportunities to all. Through his faithful commitment to social improvement, human dignity, and nonviolence, he has secured a historic place in the hearts of Americans for the more than 50 years since his assassination. But his memory is not relegated to history --- it is a living gift to all of us. His commitment to service and to the inherent worth of every person is a model for us, today and every day.

In higher education, we play a role in helping carry out Dr. King’s unfinished work. We have a responsibility to educate and inspire responsible, thoughtful, and engaged citizens. In doing so, we can help infuse our society with Dr. King’s ethic of opportunity, the notion that talent and determination should be the catalysts for success, not race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nor creed. Our nation’s history of slavery and segregation still casts a long shadow over the lives of Americans, and each of us should consider the ways we support the Black community and all historically underserved groups. There is no one who lacks talent, and so no one should lack the opportunity to share those talents. But inequalities remain, and we must remain vigilant in our pursuit of access, opportunity, and equality.

Dr. King dedicated himself to the service of others. Today, I hope all of us will renew our personal commitment to serving our communities. The many challenges we’ve faced since 2020 should revitalize our sense of urgency, our determination to contribute to the improvement of our local communities, and our vision for a fairer, more just future for everyone. There can be no more important time to help one another than when things seem most challenging, when the world feels like it is in flux.

As we enter a new year and reflect on the good works of one remarkable American, we must remember that we are all capable of serving and of contributing to our world in positive ways. As King said: “If you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; if you can’t crawl, just keep inching along. But by all means, keep moving.”

May we all, together, keep moving forward.