Make MLK Jr. Day Matter

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

I typically send a message to reflect on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. in advance of the annual campus celebration that begins each spring semester.

This year is no different—and completely different.

It’s no different in ways that are painfully obvious. King’s great dream of a future where all people are free from the tyranny of injustice has clearly not been realized. Essential progress has been made, but we still have not reached the promised land.

It’s completely different in that we find ourselves at the center of a massive and historic shift as powerful as the one set in motion by the Civil Rights Movement well over half a century ago.

This is our time to make King’s dream—and the dreams of generations of Americans—come true. Even in the midst of a devastating pandemic, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for racial and social justice in our country cannot be quelled. We know that racism is at the heart of recent attacks on our government and our democracy. But the violence taking place on our streets will not overshadow the peaceful protests held all over the country—and led here in Tacoma by our own students last summer--demanding an end to racism in America.

At this time of great turbulence in our country’s history, I believe we can do so much more than dream and hope, so much more than persist. We can—and will—flourish. One way we can do that is to gather together to celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and carry on his legacy.

We have lost powerful voices this year, mourning the passing of Senator John Lewis, a contemporary of Dr. King’s and the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963; former Tacoma Mayor Harold Moss, the city’s first Black mayor and City Council member; and others who, like King, have turned dreams into action.

We have also seen lives cruelly cut short. Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Manuel Ellis in Tacoma. Breonna Taylor in Louisville. George Floyd in Minneapolis. And more. And more. And more.

As a community devoted to learning, to knowledge, and to the pursuit of truth, we are called upon to carry those lives and those voices forward. And it is all the more meaningful when we do that work in partnership as a campus community.

I hope you will join me and other members of our campus and the broader community for the University of Puget Sound's 35th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. with special guest Anastacia-Reneé. Although we will miss the opportunity to gather with one another in person, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the Office of Intercultural Engagement for creating a memorable and meaningful way for us to gather virtually.

And as many of us will not be able to participate in a day of service in the usual ways on Monday, and students are observing a seven-day quarantine, I also want to call to your attention the full day of virtual activities planned by the Washington State History Museum in partnership with local organizations. And tomorrow evening, the City of Tacoma’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, “Collective Voices, Collective Hope,”will be held virtually and broadcast by TV Tacoma.

For our new students, in particular, attending these virtual events will be one of many ways to begin to connect with the broader community that is now your home. I had the honor of delivering a keynote address at the city’s event some years ago, which has also honored Professor Dexter Gordon with its Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award for his work with the Race and Pedagogy Institute and African American Studies. I have always found the celebrations across Tacoma, and especially right here on our own campus, to be enormously uplifting and inspiring.

In closing, in the words of Dr. King, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”

However you spend this day, make it count.

Make it matter.

Isiaah
Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D. | President