SWLAW Blog | Diversity
January 14, 2022
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 - The Meaning of the King Holiday
Southwestern celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights titan whose commitment to service and vision for a more equitable, just, and compassionate society continues to feel revolutionary 54 years after his passing.
He had so much to share. To our law students, consider this passage from Letter from Birmingham, Alabama Jail: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
For our law professors: "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education."
For those seeking some inspiration to start your day, please take a few moments to reflect on passages from Coretta Scott King's essay, "The Meaning of the King Holiday":
We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible.
And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.
The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.
On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.
It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.
We commemorate on this holiday the ecumenical leader and visionary who embraced the unity of all faiths in love and truth. And though we take patriotic pride that Dr. King was an American, on this holiday we must also commemorate the global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world. Indeed, on this day, programs commemorating my husband’s birthday are being observed in more than 100 nations.
The King Holiday celebrates Dr. King’s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence. The holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community.
The Holiday commemorates America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence — the man who taught by his example that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.
This holiday honors the courage of a man who endured harassment, threats and beatings, and even bombings. We commemorate the man who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but kept on marching and protesting and organizing anyway.
These words are particularly powerful for those who seek to uphold the rule of law, embrace justice, and provide access to justice. Please take time to think about Dr. King and his legacy, and how you, as members of the legal profession, can continue to embrace and advance the principles he held dear and for which he gave his life.
The Dean's Task Force for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging