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Office of the President

President Brown’s 2018 Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Remarks

Two months from now, it will be fifty years since Martin Luther King was murdered on a hotel balcony in a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. 

For those of us of that generation, for those of us who were moved beyond ourselves to imagine a greater nation and world, for those of us who took the buses from Cambridge to Selma in late March of 1965, for those of us who were about to be drafted to serve in an unjust war. It was unimaginable that we would no longer hear that great voice leading us forward on our radios and televisions it was, in fact, the beginning of an end – the intensifying of years of strife and conflict that choked my generation through the late 1960’s through 1970’s. 

It was not unlike the times of conflict which grips us now as we search for our way in our communities and our nation  – still believing, still hoping we are a nation of possibilities and promise.  

It has been so many years since that awful day in 1968 – but I need to tell you that I am more convinced than ever that we will emerge from this time as more compassionate, more understanding, more equal, more sensitive – and, yes, stronger in our resolve to bring justice to all, to black and brown, those who seek our shores and those native to this land, to those gay and questioning and trans to those ill and starving and to those poor and aging.  

How do I know that it will be more than simply ok?  How do I know that we have that inner strength to end this wave of the most insidious racist religious and cultural prejudice in half a century? 

There are two reasons – both are in this room today.  

The first is the man, the icon, who is about to speak to you. Dr. Cornell West took up the moral mantel and crusade for social justice, fairness, equity and class struggle fifty years ago and has been, and is today, the honest, clear and compelling voice of our time to move our nation to what is fair and just.  He is a fearless voice to raise our consciousness regarding racial and economic injustice in every part of our society – as long as his voice is heard we can continue on that road begun by Dr. King. We are grateful, today Dr. West, that you join us on this most special day for this College. We welcome you to this wonderful Campus – we are diverse, the first in families to attend college but most important we are one community where our differences create our strength.  You are very important to us to what Mount Ida stands for and most important you are a beacon of hope to our students. We look forward to your words.   

The second reason for my faith in the future is each of you seated here today.  

This event – this most important event for one of the most diverse colleges in America – is made most important by each of you – your joining together to affirm your commitment to the struggle for social and economic justice means that you share the vision of a different future for America and I know – because I see you each and every day – because I know how compassionate and passionate each and every one of you are that the darkness we witness now will pass by virtue of your energy, commitment and vision and for our nation.  

I am grateful to each of you for letting me share your vision of a better life and land.  I thank each of you so much for filling this room and for your indomitable sense of fairness and justice.  

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase just the first step.”