Martin Luther King Day Celebration

January 16, 2017

Thank you for joining us today and being a part of Miami University's Martin Luther King Celebration.

Deep in our Alma Mater, we find this inspiring stanza:

You've embraced the generations,
Men and women, young and old;
Of all races, from all nations,
And your glory will be told.

That embrace of universal human dignity is central to our identity at Miami, as our Code of Love and Honor declares: "We respect the dignity of other persons, the rights and property of others, and the right of others to hold and express disparate beliefs." This is not a platitude but a dynamic commitment —as I learned from Professor Baldwin, the words for "we are diverse" (kakapaaci iišinaakosiyankwi) [KAKA-PaaCHI-Ishna-Kosing-on-WAY] and "our community" (meenapiyankwi) [Mey-NOT-Be-ong-WAY] are both active verbs in the Myaamia language.

As the Freedom Summer Memorial on the Western Campus reminds us, we stand in solidarity with those who fight for such vital human rights, and particularly at that watershed point in our nation's history when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement brought about fundamental changes in our society. It is hard for us to imagine today how much of America looked under the legacy of exclusion and segregation less than a generation ago—from separate restrooms and water fountains to exclusion from certain neighborhoods, jobs, public accommodations, and the voting booth. But we must never forget.

The Civil Rights Movement not only advanced equal rights for African-Americans—it provided a powerful model of nonviolent and lawful direct action that has empowered other groups, from women to the LGBTQ community to people with disabilities, as all make substantial progress toward real equality. This is a dynamic, evolving movement that must be sustained, not a race with a finish line that can be left in the past. As Dr. King said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." We are proud to take our place as Miamians to continue the work for a more perfect union and a more just society.

Thank you.