President's Message for MLK Day

Let Freedom Ring, Martin Luther King

Each year on every third Monday of January people across the nation and around the world are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an official American holiday marking the birthday of this great leader. I wonder what advice and words of wisdom Martin Luther King would give us in these times. What would he encourage us to do on this holiday? Given MLK’s life of service to others he might appropriately say to us that “a day on is not a day off.” Surely he would expect us to use this time to improve the lot of others less fortunate. 

Coretta Scott King, an American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that her husband’s holiday “celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America”. She urges us to focus on the values he taught us— courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service. 

I think it important to remember that although the holiday is just one day — and Black History Month is just one month — Dr. King’s message of equality and justice for all are essential ingredients for us every day of our lives. We should see Martin Luther King’s name not so much as a noun describing a historically famous person, a place we gather together to remember him or a special holiday time of the year. But rather it should be seen as a verb—calling us to action anytime, anywhere and anyplace we see injustice or inequality in people’s lives regardless of their race, religion, nationality, sexual identity, culture or beliefs. He taught us that it is not enough to speak out against injustice but it also requires we actually do something that ends it. 

Use this day to ask yourself how you can become more engaged in community service. How can you and the rest of the Doane University community become more intentional about creating opportunities for service. To do something that helps hungry people find food and people without homes find shelter and safety. Ask yourself what you can do to reduce and eliminate racism and bigotry in our communities and around the globe. Martin Luther King’s soaring rhetoric and gifted words inspire us to dream big and his and tireless deeds and labor on behalf of those less fortunate in society guide us in the right direction like the Northern star in an open and at times turbulent sea. But now his torch has been passed to each of us with an expectation for us to speak and act everyday as though Martin Luther King was walking right alongside us. Because actually—he is.

To borrow a phrase from Coretta Scott King, “may we who follow Martin now pledge to serve humanity, promote his teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st Century”.

 

Dr. Jacque Carter

Doane University President

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