Message to Students, Faculty, and Staff—Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 18, 2021)

To the Bowdoin community, 

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday dedicated to the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggle for civil rights and equality.

More than five decades after Dr. King was murdered, we remain far from realizing his hopes for America. The murders by police of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by white vigilantes are just a few of the most recent examples of the relentless cord of violence and racism against Black people and other people of color in our country. Racism was very much in evidence at the assault on the Capitol earlier this month. White supremacists were among those who terrorized the Capitol in an effort to subvert our democratic process, and there was an obvious and much-discussed “double standard” in police presence and response between the attack on the Capitol and earlier marches for racial and social justice.   

Generation after generation we have allowed profound inequities in opportunity based on race to hold fast in our country, resulting in the persistence of fundamentally different life outcomes and experiences for those of color. We have much work to do as a nation to create equity in the opportunities available to everyone. Commitment to this work has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. It is about facts and reality. It is about justice, right and wrong. It is about our humanity and our character.   

As I do each year on this day, I encourage those of you who have not already done so to listen to the recording of Dr. King’s talk delivered to students, faculty, staff, and members of the Brunswick community in First Parish Church in May 1964, to watch the short video about his visit to the College that day at the invitation of students, and to learn about the various upcoming Black History Month events—including the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture and Q&A with former Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum H’06. And this year, more than any other since this nation began to formally celebrate Dr. King’s life, I urge you to set aside time to reflect on the work we must do, and that you will do, for racial justice and to realize his dream. 

“One day this nation will rise up,” Dr. King said in his transcendent “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963, “and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” 

Sincerely,  

Clayton