Reflections from the President
Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday, 2013
Today we celebrate the life and the extraordinary work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King’s activity as a preacher, writer, social advocate, and networker changed our country and the world. ?
Born in 1950, I grew up with no awareness of WW II which ended only several years before. Memorial events like today can be equally “distant” when one does not have an active memory of a person or the time. Dr. King and others who worked and, in his case died, for social justice in the late 50’s and 60’s transformed life as we all know it.
It was not that long ago that voting rights, schools, public transportation and, even, restaurants were segregated in our country. Those who worked, non-violently but diligently, faced hostile opposition, frequent imprisonment and, often, verbal and physical abuse to advance justice and our quality of life. This image of the US is not one that most of us would like to hold. Yesterday, I learned that Native Americans will not use nor even handle a $20 bill due to Andrew Jackson’s contemptible role in the “Indian Removal Act” that sought to rid indigenous people in the US from our country. This was the US of 1830, but no less real.
It is useful to take a moment on a holiday like today’s to consider where there is injustice and to think about some response that we can make to it. How do our career plans acknowledge our awareness of social, racial, economical, gender inequality? Better yet, look very close to home to see if there are ways that we might unwittingly create injustice. For example: Do we ignore or oppose change to gather ephemeral friends, rather than work to integrate our ideas as part of the process of improvement? Are we prone in our speech to generalization or caricature (“Those people are really only…) rather than engaging people with respect, as complex individuals and discussing differences? Do we ‘take’ or ‘give’?
Today’s inauguration is testimony to the fact that good work and sacrifice by individuals can make a significant difference and change a culture. What will our world be like as we work to improve ourselves and our community?
Happy MLK Holiday.