Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I hope that it goes without saying how important it is, in this present moment, to find ways to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through reflection and education about the injustices he sought to alleviate and the world he hoped would emerge. While much was accomplished by Dr. King and many others during his lifetime and through his legacy, the gravity of the actions and events during the past year, and most recently in Washington, D.C., have amplified the significant amount of work left to do.
As with so many of his speeches, sermons, and writings, Dr. King issued a call to action through his belief in humankind to change and inspire change in his acceptance speech when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He said:
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ’oughtness’ that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
We all must join Dr. King in his “[refusal] to accept” this view and strive toward improvement through education, outreach, and partnership.
At UW-Stout we continue to deepen our commitment to inclusive excellence. In addition to providing a variety of equity, diversity, and inclusion-related professional development opportunities this year, we have also worked on producing more educational resources for our employees and students, formed a police advisory group, and are engaged in long-term planning in conjunction with our new 10-year strategic plan — FOCUS 2030. This year, we are also pleased to participate in the 2021 Chippewa Valley Martin Luther King Junior Day celebration, which features two of our faculty members, Dr. Le’Trice Donaldson and Dr. Lopa Basu, as moderators and presenters. The event will be streamed on Facebook beginning at 12 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18. Dr. Donaldson will moderate a panel at 3:45 p.m., Dr. Basu will participate as a panelist at 5 p.m., and I will speak briefly at 6:30 p.m.
While we are proud of our improvements as a university, there is much more we want to do, and that we must do, to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion on our campus, as well as throughout our community.
I continue to call on our university community to commit to the challenging work necessary, not just today, but every day, to honor the life and work of Dr. King and to continue to strive toward his vision for a more fair, equitable, and peaceful world.