Today the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In past years, I have shared some of my own views about this great American and extraordinary peacemaker. His life and his teachings have greatly influenced my beliefs, my values and my career. I thought it was worth sharing some of these ideas again. Next week, I will return to the topic of the investment in a college education. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day … celebrate it through an act of service to the community!
For most of our traditional-age students, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been a part of their entire lives. Sadly, it took 15 years from the year of King’s assassination to establish this federal holiday.
The original legislation to commemorate Dr. King was introduced by Congressman John Conyers from Michigan just four days after the assassination. When the original bill was not passed, petitions were signed by six million people endorsing the holiday. The bill finally passed and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983.
The original proposal was to celebrate the holiday on January 15th, the date of Dr. King’s birth. Because of a concern about the proximity to Christmas and New Year’s, the date of the holiday was set for the third Monday of January. This year we will celebrate this special day on January 21st .
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teachings have had a significant influence on the beliefs, values and philosophy of leadership of many people. Some who hold Dr. King in high esteem are chagrined that in the over 40 years since his death, we continue to confront serious issues of racism, poverty, injustice and violence.
But Dr. King’s contributions to the overall quality of our lives and the improvement of our society are immeasurable. And it is extraordinary in so many ways that as we celebrate Dr. King, the country is, in fact, led by its first African-American president, who is being inaugurated for his second term on this very day. Regardless of your politics, the election and re-election of Barak Obama provide evidence that Dr. King’s mission and message have taken root in this country. While there continue to be bumps on the road towards equity, tolerance and civility, we are making progress.
When I teach a course on leadership, the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. is always part of the curriculum. My students always read Letter From A Birmingham Jail and often watch a video of the “I Have A Dream” speech. I am always amazed that for many students, this is the first time they have seen this speech and read any of Dr. King’s writings. He was an extraordinary speaker, but an equally powerful writer. While the videotapes of his speeches lack the technological qualities of today, his writings will still inspire any reader.
Today is a day to reflect on the life and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the end of this blog entry, I have listed some of my favorite quotes from Dr. King’s writings and speeches that I have used repeatedly over the years. I would urge you to read some of Dr. King’s speeches and books. Take the time to read (or reread) Letter From A Birmingham Jail, and find the “I Have A Dream Speech” on the Internet and just listen. Hopefully, the quotes that follow will also help capture the core of his message.
But even more important, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a good time to reflect upon our own lives… to think about our values, our commitment to service and the Common Good, our willingness to speak out and act for justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a holiday; it is a call to action. The best way to celebrate Dr. King’s life and contributions is to turn his teachings into action. I encourage you to read and reflect upon the words of Dr. King. I encourage you to work for justice and equality.
And sadly, we still face overwhelming challenges and threats to peace and equality in this country and throughout the world. How you act for justice and equality is a personal decision … but you must act. Helping at a social service agency, donating to support food and energy programs, tutoring, getting involved in political action, etc. … all are consistent with Dr. King’s vision.
But speaking out is as important and sometimes harder. When we are silent to injustice we indirectly condone this behavior and these actions. Our voices are powerful weapons of peace and justice. Keep Dr. King’s dream alive today and every day!
Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotations
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."
“A lie cannot live.”
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“Life's most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)
For my final blog post, I would like to point out the most important thing students need to remember in college...it’s your education! Students need to be comfortable and assertive in communicating what they want to get out of their college experience with their professors. And faculty should continue to strive to provide the resources necessary to let students flourish in their academics.
As a junior at Anna Maria College, I take pride in knowing that the College I go to is full of resources that will help me learn what I need to know, and the biggest resource of all is the faculty. They provide the knowledge and the tools AMC students need to thrive...students just need to let them know that’s exactly what they are in college to do.
Have a great holiday season and thanks for sharing this experience with me.
Anna Maria College is blessed to have an amazing faculty that is dedicated to the values of education and helping students. Our professors can almost always be seen with an open door to their office when they are not in the classroom. Every time I walk down the halls and past faculty offices I see at least a couple of professors meeting with students trying to give them the extra help they might need for the class or possibly just meeting to make sure they are both on the same page.
Meeting with faculty is important because the classroom is not the only time place your professor can help you. Often, it’s during office hours that you can really talk with your professors about what’s going on in class or about something you need help with. Any questions that can’t be asked in class because there might not be enough time or you’re not comfortable asking in class, can be asked during these office hours. One-on-one time can be very helpful for students, as well as professors, and can aid in the professor-student relationship. I encourage all students not to ignore their professors’ office hours!
Another great thing about Anna Maria College is that it is a small campus so it is a common occurrence to see professors walking around campus. Also, because we don’t have a large campus, it’s easier to talk to a professor casually either to get to know each other better or to set up a time to meet more formally.
Remember that professors are there for you; they are your most valuable resource, after all, they are the ones teaching you everything you need to know!
Professors, do your students utilize your office hours frequently?
Students, do your professors' office hours help you?
One advantage of being at a smaller institution is being able to develop a good form of communication between you and your professor. My advisor, who is also the primary professor for my major of media communications has made a huge impact on my college life here at AMC. For my first two years, I had the pleasure of having him one to three times a semester, as well as for my advisor. This semester, although I don't have any classes with him, I still make sure that we stay in touch whether through email or by stopping by his office during free time to speak with him about what’s going on with my life, classes, and internship.
The more you tell your professors and advisors, the more they will know about you and the more they can help you. For instance, if you are failing a class and for some reason your advisor did not know yet and you didn’t tell him/her quick enough, by the time s/he finds out, it might be too late to sign up for that class again and/or it may interfere with future scheduling.
Being on a small campus like AMC, it’s very easy to speak with your advisor and professors frequently.
Have you ever had a good experience because you kept good communication with your professor/advisor?
Communicating with your professor can do a lot for building a positive student/professor relationship that makes your educational experience worthwhile. Getting the most from your education can also be as simple as understanding what you are doing in your classes in the first place.
Besides the fact that we are in college to learn, we should know exactly what we are learning. Some of us may find ourselves in a class we are required to take and then realize that we have no idea what it is actually about. Sometimes, students have trouble understanding exactly what they are supposed to obtain from a class or what they need to learn. Working with the professor to establish course goals can help students stay focused on what they need to do and can keep them on the right track. This may sound simple to some but as a college student I have often wondered “when will I use this class for?” or “how does this class really help me?”
With your professors assistance, I am finding that there is always something of value to gain from a class. And while it may not seem to directly help you in obvious ways, you may and most likely will find yourself in a situation where you remember what you learned in that class you once took and be glad you learned it!
Education is so valuable, and when it is given to you in any form, cherish it, because it’s one thing that can never be taken away from you...only given.