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Chancellor's Blog: MLK's dream is alive and well

| Chancellor James Schmidt

On Monday, Jan. 15, we honor the life, legacy and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though he was taken from us far too soon, Dr. King’s remarkable optimism and vision for this country are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

King’s dream was that people from all backgrounds would live together in a democracy guided by justice, equality and prosperity for all. As we review recent events and the ongoing struggle people in marginalized groups in this country face every day, it is clear we must address the inequalities that surround us if we are to realize King’s dream. Though the road to equality has always been filled with potholes, King helped us see the path to harmony and justice.

One of our most important goals at UW-Eau Claire is to create a more inclusive environment that is welcoming to all, with the intent to achieve a 20 percent enrollment of students of color and eliminate the opportunity gap for those students. In addition, we will provide education and professional development opportunities for all faculty, staff and students to help overcome bias of people in historically underrepresented groups. Our commitment to EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) is unwavering, and though we have not yet reached our EDI goals, we are working every day to make UW-Eau Claire a university where everyone can succeed.

Last year we reorganized our administrative structure and created the EDI division. We hired Dr. Tamara Johnson, our assistant chancellor for EDI, and her leadership and vision are helping us make great strides. Dr. Johnson is helping us implement our EDI plan, engaging us in important, sometimes difficult discussions that are necessary as we move forward together toward our EDI goals.

Dr. King, one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, eloquently laid out his vision for America during his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King’s words remind us of the principles on which this country was founded:

 “I say to you today, my friends, though, 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: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity to reflect on the man who helped lead the civil rights movement and change the course of history in this country. It is also a time to acknowledge that people in marginalized groups still face great injustices in our society, and though King and so many others dedicated their lives to equality for all, we still have much work to do.

I encourage faculty, staff, students and community members to participate in one or more of these UW-Eau Claire-sponsored opportunities to recall Dr. King’s dream for a more inclusive society:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, noon-4 p.m., Jan. 15: Meet at The Community Table to share a meal together, then serve with other volunteers at various non-profits in the region.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Event, 6 p.m., Jan. 15: All ages will gather at this communitywide event at St. James the Greater Catholic Church. The ceremony will include readings from King’s works, music and multimedia presentations about the history of the civil rights movement.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Event on campus, 5 p.m., Jan. 31: The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Black Student Alliance will hold a special event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy at 5 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.

Each of us plays a role in realizing Dr. King’s dream, and we must do our part to make the world a better place. May Dr. King’s dream for our nation be our inspiration in 2018 as we strive to ensure our university is an inclusive environment for all.

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