By Nicole Price
Chief Diversity Officer
While we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday on Monday, January 20, his actual birthday is January 15. On this day he would have been 85. It has been almost 46 years since his assassination; almost 51 years since his historic speech at the March on Washington; almost 58 years since he spoke at the Ford Hall Forum.
Before the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, prior to the March on Washington, and almost a decade before “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Dr. King delivered “A Realistic Look at Race Relations” at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston. He proclaimed then, in 1956, that “we prefer tired feet to tired souls. I and others with me will walk until the walls of segregation are broken down by the battering ram of justice.”
Is 2014 different from 1968, 1963, or 1956? The easy answer is yes. This country has elected a biracial president, rejected the Defense of Marriage Act, ended the military’s Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, seen our top universities become more diverse, made professions more diverse, expanded the notion of equality and diversity, and nominated and confirmed the first women to the Supreme Court of United States. And yet, with all these milestones, we as a nation and world have a long way to go to reach the full actualization of the dream Dr. King expressed in his speech at the March on Washington.
Suffolk University supports Dr. King's vision, and the creation of Suffolk University stands on a tenet of the dream he referenced in his historic 1963 speech. The founding principle of Suffolk University is to serve as an institution that offers equal opportunity for higher education. This was founder Gleason Archer’s response to his financial benefactor, who requested that Archer pay forward the opportunity he was given to complete his legal education. Broadening access not only benefits the people receiving access, but it also advances the community at large.
Coretta Scott King expressed this notion – which in essence is a continuation of Dr. King’s dream – when she spoke at Suffolk University in 1998 for Black History Month. In her address, Mrs. King stated: “When different cultures learn to live together, to cooperate with and even enjoy one another, we enrich our society and expand the economy. … The future belongs to those who are experienced and skilled in interacting with people of many races, nationalities, and cultures.” Mrs. King lived these words as she took the helm of the civil rights movement after her husband’s assassination, opposed apartheid, supported LGBT equality, and advocated for world peace. Yet we know there is more work to do.
So on Dr. King’s birthday and on the day we celebrate his legacy, take a moment to reflect. What can we do to make the dream a reality? How do we contribute to the progress of the dream? Why is actualization of the dream pertinent to our prosperity and advancement as an institution, a nation, and world?
Perhaps part of the answer may be found in Dr. King’s speech upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Dr. King stated: "Sooner or later all peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood."