A message from the president on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2022.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. --Martin Luther King, Jr.
On this MLK Holiday, as students return to campus and faculty and staff prepare for the start of spring semester--all while the Omicron variant persists--let us take time to reflect on the power of education to change lives, espoused by the Reverend Dr. King. Dr. King tirelessly called for change, believing that critical thinking and intensive reckoning with inequality could both shape minds and galvanize action. Joining the struggle for social justice with the right to educational opportunity, King fought for equity and access in ways that have ongoing impact and meaning for us today.
Perhaps especially in this pandemic moment--which has disrupted how we learn, when we learn, and where we learn—we need the spirit of Dr. King more than ever. Who would have thought that in the spring of 2022, almost two years after the spread of the virus first demanded we vacate the campus, we would continue to make adjustments as we learn to live with COVID? Over these two years, we have witnessed how the virus has heightened social inequalities and racial disparities. We have also come to appreciate the isolation and anxiety that too many of our Oxy community have experienced, as they have sought to negotiate this strange new world of COVID. The pandemic has shown us in stark relief what Dr. King noted, that education can be fragile and precious and it sometimes frustrates our efforts to be active champions of learning.
Times such as these call on our collective empathy and compassion, and we begin this spring semester with an understanding that we must protect each other and practice a community of care. Only in this way can we weather this current challenge and make ourselves and the College worthy of King’s call.
King once said that the ultimate measure of a person is not where that individual stands “in moments of comfort and convenience” but where that person “stands at times of challenge and controversy.” What then are the moments of challenge and controversy from which we cannot step away? And when we find ourselves engaged at such moments, can we still act out of the love for humankind that King professed and enacted?
I wish you a thoughtful and meaningful MLK Holiday and a peaceful start to the spring semester.
President Harry Elam