Jan. 14, 2015
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
My guess would be that just about every American would be able to identify those words as part of the famous speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 in Washington, D.C. Although it was given more than 50 years ago, its message still resonates today.
I was watching the Golden Globes the other night. In talking about the movie, “Selma” host Tina Fey said sarcastically that it “is about the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine.” Everyone in the audience laughed because clearly that is not the case, even half a century later. It was one of those instances where you had to laugh, because to think about it seriously, you might cry.
But Spartans think seriously about it all the time. Michigan State was founded on the ideals that we should empower ordinary people through education that is good enough for the proudest yet open to the poorest. Our history boasts the first African American president of any major university in the United States, Clifton Wharton. Former President John Hannah funded scholarships for members of the Little Rock Nine to attend MSU. We’ve made education accessible to migrant workers and students with disabilities through special programs. The university has become a truly international campus appreciating and celebrating the diversity of community.
This coming Monday, MSU will mark its 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration with its annual Commemorative March for Justice at Beaumont Tower, other events and by commemorating the one-year anniversary of a major campus and community initiative, Project 60/50.
Project 60/50 – A Yearlong Community Conversation on Civil and Human Rights, was coordinated through MSU’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and featured more than 200 events, thousands of participants and more than 22 corporate sponsors and community partners. Events and initiatives impacted by Project 60/50 included The Race Card Project, the 2014 One Book, One Community program and the "60/50 Theatre Project," among others.
Rob Roznowski, associate professor of acting and head of acting and directing in the Department of Theatre, helped create the “The 60/50 Theatre Project.” He and his colleagues found that researching the true history of civil rights at MSU was more complex than he had first imagined. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Putting History on Stage, to learn more about the production.
Courtney Woods is a senior and a student activist who aspires to be a community organizer, public servant and political representative. She has done some inspiring things in the last year and says she has grown and developed professionally, culturally and academically through her civic engagement in Project 60/50. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Joining the Conversation to learn more about this impressive young woman.
Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done in the United States and all around the world when it comes to civil rights. Discrimination and conflict due to racial, cultural and religious differences are all too common.
Twenty years ago, the country of Rwanda suffered a devastating genocide of nearly a million Tutsi and moderate Hutu by members of the Hutu majority. Since then, MSU’s Dan Clay, professor of agriculture and natural resources, has been working with partners in Rwanda to rebuild their economy by growing a gourmet coffee industry. Watch the newest MSUToday video feature, Rwanda Rebirth, to learn more about this important work.
In his speech, King also said, “We cannot walk alone.” He’s right. It will take partnerships and working together to solve big problems like civil rights and equality for all.
But, I have faith. Spartans are more than half a million strong around this world with talents numbering more than that. Every day they’re making a difference home and abroad and changing lives. Today, and every day, I have a dream. I have a dream that Spartans can be leaders, lifesavers and world changers. Dream big, Spartans.
Photo of the 2014 MLK Day march on campus by G.L. Kohuth