23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at MIT - Elaine R. Jones 2/6/1997
PRESENTER: Good morning.
TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
PRESENTER: Thank you for sharing this moment with us.
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PRESENTER: We would like to welcome you to--
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PRESENTER: --the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration. We would also like to take a moment to thank--
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PRESENTER: --President Charles Vest and his wife Rebecca Vest for hosting this event. Thank you very much.
PRESENTER: We would also like to welcome--
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PRESENTER: --Miss Elaine Jones.
PRESENTER: It is pleasure to have you with us here this morning.
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PRESENTER: We would like to thank all of the members--
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PRESENTER: --of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee to whom we owe this wonderful morning.
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PRESENTER: When we call your names, please stand up.
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PRESENTER: Professor Phil Clay,
Professor Jerome I. Friedman,
Reverend Jane Gould,
Professor Kenneth L. Hale,
Professor Wesley Harris,
Dean Arnold Henderson, Jr.,
Evette M. Layne,
TRANSLATOR: Miss Pamela Lomax.
Professor Philip Morrison,
Mr. Richard O'Bryant,
Dean Margaret Daniels Tyler,
Miss Ann Davis Shaw,
Mr. Robert Sales,
Mr. Ronald K. [INAUDIBLE],
and Professor Cardinal Warde.
PRESENTER: And co-Chairs Professor Michael S. Feld and Dean Leo Osgood. Thank you.
In addition, we would like to express our appreciation to the student volunteers--
TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
PRESENTER: --who were here very early to help with the preparations. Thank you very much.
And those students are Jonathan White, Alim Needham, Angela Neal, Michelle Hicks, Maya Cantwell,
TRANSLATOR: [INAUDIBLE] Mendez, [INAUDIBLE], Corina [INAUDIBLE], and [INAUDIBLE],
PRESENTER: Thank you very much for contributing to the success of this event.
TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
SHELL: Thank you both, Kimberly and [? Cara. ?] It is a distinct pleasure to be your master of ceremonies at the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award Breakfast. Please note a slight change in your program. After Dr. Vest recognizes the recipients of the MLK Leadership Awards, he will introduce Ms. Katherine Born, the Vice Mayor of Cambridge, who will present two citations from the community.
Now let us begin our program with the invocation by Chaplain Reverend Constance F. Parvey. We will begin breakfast right after that. Reverend Parvey?
PARVEY: Let us pray. Gracious and loving God, we give You thanks for our brother, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, for his life, for his death, for his resurrection in our midst, for his dream, for the commitment that he has developed in the hearts and minds of all those who are gathered here and millions of people around the world, for the life which he has given us to live on, for this place, for the African American students who are studying here, the professors, the administrators, for the many students from black culture who will come here and study and who have and will contribute to the life of science and technology and human values across the world.
We give you thanks for the strength, the vision, the courage of Martin Luther King and the incredible inheritance that he gives us and so this morning, may we, through the gifts of your creation, be strengthened in our friendship with one another and in our resolve to live out that dream. In the name of the Almighty God, a God of love and mercy. Amen.
SHELL: Ladies and gentlemen. I hope you've enjoyed your breakfast as much as I have. But you can't fall asleep on us now. The best part of the program is yet to come.
I have the pleasure of introducing two of our very own students-- Eto Ottitgbe, class of 1999, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Cedric Logan, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. They'll both guide us in a reflection on the life of Dr. King. Eto?
OTTITGBE: Good morning. I am Eto Ottitgbe, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering. I have a question for you. Are you guilty? What about you? Are we all guilty?
Today, it is very easy for us to carry on with our day-to-day activities and ignore all those around us. We find it convenient to exist in our personal boxes and tend to our personal agendas.
Think about it. How often do you take time out to give someone a hand? How often do you give thoughtful consideration to someone who may not be as well off as you are? How often do we sacrifice ourselves in the name of love?
You see part of life's difficulties arise when we choose to step out of our personal confines and into someone else's. Doing so is a challenge because it requires a special strength in order to deal with someone who may not share the same ideals that you do. This requires the strength to love.
To love is the most powerful thing that any human being can do. I said to love is the most powerful thing that any human being can do. Because loving destroys hate, eliminates ignorance, builds positivity, a positivity that is much needed in such a negative world as our own, positivity that will aid us in resolving the world's present day issues.
Because you see the problem with today's problems is that they come from so many different sources, some more clandestine than others. Can you pinpoint the exact cause of the increase in black-on-black violence to a single culprit? What about the high percentages of AIDS in the black community? Then there's materialism and greed and low personal expectations, low self-worth and disunity and on and on and on.
Though the causes of these are hidden, the effects are quite apparent. There is no single formula to save the world, but there is a single power. That is the power of love-- universal, self-sacrificing all-enduring L-O-V-E.
This was the power, the strength that Dr. King wielded with the skill and precision and passion of a true warrior. He refused to let up in his struggle. He stood boldly against angry mobs, hot climates, corrupt law officials, and even some of his own people who did not have the faith that he did in the struggle.
In order to love, we must develop the qualities that permitted Dr. King to overcome such things. These qualities are tough minds and tender hearts. With tough minds and tender hearts, we can work to dispel the MIT apathy that exists in much of our student body. Strategic agendas can be comprised to make positive advancements within the MIT community. Then human alliances can be formed to better the MIT, Cambridge, and Boston community.
As members of one of the world's most prestigious scientific institutions, we have a responsibility to utilize our abilities. Our science must be used to scrutinize and identify the problems of our people. Then our faith must be used to interpret and rectify them-- all this done in the name of love.
Dr. King found the strength to love at a time when it seemed that doing so was against the law. Today, February 6, 1997, if love was against the law, would you be guilty? What about you? Would we all be guilty? Thank you.
SHELL: Wow. That was Eto Ottitgbe, class of 1999. Cedric Logan, please.
LOGAN: First, I would like to express my thanks to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee for allowing me to speak here today. Today, when I reflect upon the impact on the life of Dr. King and the countless others like him, I personally filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Today, I am grateful that I can be a farm boy from Lowndes County, Alabama and that I can be an engineer. Today, I am grateful that I can walk into a voting booth in my hometown of Hayneville, Alabama, where in 1965, a young white minister named Jonathan Daniels was gunned down in broad daylight for helping with black voter registration.
Today, I am grateful that I could walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Selma, Alabama and expect to be served in any restaurant and to be allowed to drink from any water fountain. Today, I'm grateful to Dr. King and those of his generation for bringing America from the land of slavery, Jim Crow, and legalized oppression to the very door of the promised land. And even personally, today I'm grateful that I could walk through the door of my Alma mater, the University of Alabama, with a textbook and a calculator rather than just a broom and a shovel.
In the spirit of the 11th chapter of the Book of Hebrews, Dr. King and those of his generation are to be commended for their faith, even though they did not receive the things promised but only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. In the spirit of the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews, the challenge for our present generation is to throw off everything that hinders-- bitterness, hatred, complacency, and apathy-- and to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Then, and only then, in the eyes of the creator will the life and legacy of Dr. King and those of his generation be made perfect. Thank you.
SHELL: Cedric Logan. I'd like to personally thank both Eto and Cedric. I hope everyone has not only listened but will take heed to the words that they spoke this morning.
Now I'd like to introduce our next speaker-- Dr. John H. Cartwright. Dr. Cartwright is currently the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Social Ethics at Boston University and the President of the [INAUDIBLE] Society for the Study of Religion. Beyond the classroom, Dr. Cartwright had served as training associate and administrator of Boston University's Summer Laboratory in the Improvement of Human Relations and was, from 1968 to 1970, the founding Director of the University's King Center.
Since 1977, Dr. Cartwright has served as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Social Ethics and since 1991, has served as Executive Secretary of the Society of Christian Ethics. That's quite a resume. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Cartwright.
CARTWRIGHT: To the Committee and to Deans Tyler and Osgood and honored guests, it is my privilege to be on this side of the river for a change. Surprisingly, things look about the same over here as they do over there. It's hard to follow these two students. You're tremendous. I wish I could get you into my class.
Speaking of that, I think if I weren't here, I would be teaching about this time. So I know that my students would like to thank you for--
And that marvelous introduction that you gave reminded me of a favorite story of Martin King that whenever he would be giving the kinds of introductions you can imagine had this story of Billy Graham, I guess, as America's resident preacher. And it seems that Billy Graham when he was conducting one of his Crusades discovered in his pocket-- and all of the men here will have had this experience-- a letter that you should have mailed some time before.
And while he had a break, he thought he would run down to the post office. So he went out and said, well, where is it? And he saw this kid. And he said, young man, would you help me? I need to find the post office. Says, no problem. Says, you just go two blocks this way and then you turn right. And it's right there.
He said, thank you. He said, do you know who I am? And the young man said, no. He said, well, I'm the Reverend Billy Graham, and I'm holding forth over there at the stadium tonight. And I tell you what, if you come over, I'll show you the way to heaven. And little boy said, oh, go on. You don't even know the way to the post office.
And probably that's most appropriate for me because I didn't even know the way to the parking lot this morning. I would like to say a few words about someone that I feel very deeply about. We were in school together for a bit, and I have walked as well as I can and in his footsteps over the years and exceedingly privileged to carry a title associated with him.
I want to say just a word about King's stature as a scholar and his writings. This is a somewhat controversial area, but I think it's something that I could share meaningfully with you.
You remember-- and please bear with me if I say some things that you already know, just doze off for a couple seconds-- but King was graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. He subsequently went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania for his Bachelor of Divinity degree. He, in fact, delivered the Valedictorian address at the commencement.
He went there in 1948 and finished 1951 and immediately enrolled-- in September of '51-- at Boston University in the graduate school. Many people say the School of Theology, but he was a student in the graduate school as a PhD candidate in Systematic Theology.
In 1964, after King had become "King", he officially donated his papers to Boston University. But due to his tragic death, the papers from approximately 1963 to the end of his life were not forwarded to Boston University, but became part of the King Center archives in Atlanta. And fortunately for scholars and others, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project was initiated in 1984 by Mrs. King and the King Center.
The goal of the project is to assemble over the next 15 years, as I said, in 1984, a 12-volume scholarly edition of the speeches, sermons, correspondence, and other writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. To date, the first two volumes in that series have been published under the general editorship of Clayborne Carson at Stanford University. This will make it possible, sometime in the future when all 12 volumes are done, for scholars to, at every library in the world, perhaps, to have access to the total corpus of the writings of Martin King, rather than the situation today of having to shuttle between Boston University and the King Center.
King's pilgrimage into nonviolence, which is in a sense his most characteristic thing I think, was a journey into the formation of a comprehensive and coherent social philosophy that was grounded fundamentally in a metaphysics that included a personal God, a Christian systematic theological perspective, and an ethic of the dignity and worth of the human personality. And concerning his theology, his major professor at Boston University, L. Harold DeWolf, wrote that "at nearly all points his system of positive theological belief was identical with" his major professors. And he said, "occasionally I find his language following closely the special terms of my own lectures and writings."
Nevertheless, the main original theological contribution of his tragically shortened life and career was his remarkably consistent translating of his theology into action. In this process, he related his theological beliefs in an authentic and original way to various social theories and movements of his time. And in doing so, King has made what many of us feel to be a singular contribution to modern religious thought. Using the words of Jesus of Nazareth and the example of Gandhi in India, King was the first and remains the foremost to really articulate the concept of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance for the American context.
Having said all of that, it would appear that Martin King would be vilified by those who would disagree with him and extolled by those who understood and loved him. However, about the beginning of the '80s, there began to be a rumbling in the air. And this rumbling originally began in and about the status of his dissertation. That rumbling led many to begin to question whether or not Dr. King's scholarship was as authentic as it should have been.
Early in 1988, a Stanford graduate student and staff member on the King Papers Project noticed instances of King's failure to cite sources as this student was scrutinizing collateral texts to find the sources and allusions in King's dissertation. And following this discovery, the King Project made an intensive effort between 1988 and 1990 to find a pattern of citation and borrowing in King's more than 40 graduate papers. The project staff found that many of the papers King wrote as a graduate student at Crozer Theological Seminary between 1948 and '51 and at Boston University between 1951 and '54, including the dissertation that he defended in 1955, contained frequent instances where he used the words of other writers without giving them credit.
And after the scope of this problem had become clear, it behooved Boston University to address this specifically with regard to the dissertation, since we had some people suggesting that we should, in fact, revoke his PhD and perhaps substitute that with an honorary degree or some such thought. That was never discussed. The president appointed a blue ribbon-- blue ribbon committee of four with one outside professor-- I was included on that committee-- to come to the bottom of this and to issue a statement on behalf of the university.
We came to the conclusion that the dissertation is, in fact, flawed and that a permanent letter be attached to the dissertation indicating that it is flawed and that for chapter and verse, one should consult the King Papers Project. We went on to say, however, that should not, since King was not alive to speak for himself, that that fact of his dissertation should not take away one iota from his statue as a leader and as a person and as one who gave the last full measure of devotion for all of us.
Now, the real question following that, of course, is, what is the historical and biographical significance of the papers that Martin King wrote, including his dissertation? The project discovered so many deficiencies in his papers that only a few students of King had thought them deserving of the type of careful study that should have been given to them. His appropriation of the words and deeds of others should certainly not be understood merely as violations of academic rules. They also indicate his singular ability to intertwine his words and ideas with those of others to express his beliefs persuasively and to construct a persona with broad transracial appeal.
So though in large measure derivative, King's student papers document an important stage in the development of his thought and his leadership qualities. And as he mined theological texts for nuggets of cogency that would serve his academic ends, King resolved longstanding religious doubts that he had and refined a method of eclectic composition that would enrich his sermons, his speeches, and his published writings. Now, his borrowings from Euro-American and African-American religious thought supplied him with a framework for understanding, perhaps, the flaws in his own character. He may simply have concluded that his academic credentials and theological readings had served positive purposes.
So in one of his last sermons, King may have spoken of his own life when he addressed the Ebenezer congregation on a passage from the Book of Mark. Recounting the quest of James and John to sit beside Jesus, King saw the two men's desire for recognition as understandable. "Before we condemn them too quickly," he said, "let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those basic desires for recognition. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade."
He explained, "somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego." He warned however, that the drum major instinct was dangerous if not restrained. "It causes you to lie about whom you know sometimes, to try to identify with the so-called big-name people. Feelings of snobbishness could even invade the church."
So he said in that sermon, "the church is the one place where a PhD ought to forget that he is a PhD." And King's interpretation of the biblical story was that Jesus did not oppose the drum major instinct, but instead believed that it should be put to good purposes. "If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve."
And he ended the sermon by referring to his own desire for recognition, separating those aspects of his identity that were superficial from the ones he deemed were essential. Suggesting the texts for his eulogy, King advised, "tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. That isn't important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others."
And so what is it that we can, in a sense, conclude from this? I wish I had more time to spell out more. I've just been able to be a bit sketchy. But as one who has studied King very closely, and for many years, it is my considered opinion that, as so many have said before me, that King really did not originate most of his ideas.
In fact, Mrs. King, when I invited her to Boston University some years ago, that's how she began her address. She said her husband was not an original thinker, which I was a wee bit taken aback by. But in any case, essentially, I think the conclusion is that he was not so much a creative theologian, but a clergyman-- not an originator of ideas, but a messenger of them.
He could be styled more, in my terms, as an ideological leader rather than a charismatic one. The charismatic leader's wisdom is considered to be the truth simply because he or she utters it. The ideological leader, on the other hand, is one whose leadership comes from an ability to interpret an existing belief system in a most compelling manner. Indeed, as David Halberstam said of King, he could make the congregation of a country church say amen to a quotation from Plato.
So I believe that as we look to the future of King, scholars will continue to debate. And as we look to the point where the King Papers Project will come to an end and we will have all of the chapter and verse, we can then make a better assessment of King as a scholar. But in the meantime, would you pardon me if I just say that a lot of that is strictly academic and that what we are really talking about today is not so much dissertations and papers and citations, although as an academic, I must take those things terribly seriously, but more today when I think of King, I think about a committed life.
I think about all of the work that's left to be done that he was so sure that one day it would be done. And I know that somewhere Martin King is saying about this occasion and all such occasions, keep up the spirit. Thank you.
SHELL: Dr. John Cartwright. Now I have the distinct honor of introducing the 15th President of MIT, Dr. Charles M. Vest. Dr. Vest is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of GEM, the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. This is but one of the many significant roles that Dr. Vest has played on a national level. President Vest will present the recipients of the 1996-1997 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award for alumni, faculty, students, or student groups. And might I add we both have an appointment together in June at graduation. Dr. Vest.
VEST: [INAUDIBLE] up now. Well, I do have the unmailed letter in my pocket.
Fortunately, my wife Becky knows where the post office is. So when I get lost as usual, she'll save me. Thank you very much, Greg. And I do look forward to that appointment with you in June very much. And thank all of you for being here this morning.
It now is my great pleasure and privilege to present this year's Martin Luther King Leadership Awards. This past Monday, The Boston Globe ran a story, noting how relatively short is the list of black Americans and other minority figures who receive widespread attention in history and social science classes in America. The article then listed a long roster of distinguished Americans who remain almost unknown to our youth. Several were cited for their groundbreaking work in industrial technology, biochemistry, and architecture, all fields of great interest here at MIT.
Yet even here, I suspect there are few, if any, students, faculty, staff, or presidents who can tell you much about Jan Matzeliger, Norbert Rillieux, Dr. Charles Drew, or Benjamin Banneker. This lack of awareness of the role, the value, and the importance of diversity in our culture is a legacy of our past. But it is by no means a mere historical artifact.
Even in today's mass culture, too few of our heroes are drawn from sources other than the ranks of athletes and entertainers. While I do not wish for a moment to underrate the achievements of these figures, I do wish we could make more room in our mass culture for the celebration of Americans like WC Patton, who died on January 16 at the age of 84. WC Patton was a school teacher and a principal who set out to lead a modest voter registration effort in postwar Alabama, and ultimately rose to become the NAACP's national director of voter education, a post he held for 22 years.
If American students of all races knew just a fraction about people like WC Hatton as that that they know about rock stars and athletes, our nation would be a much better place. And it is for this very reason that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Awards are so important to all of us at MIT. These awards provide us with a welcome opportunity to celebrate the contributions of diversity to the larger world of higher learning. At the same time, they allow us to celebrate individuals who exemplify the ideals of Dr. King and inspire us all to incorporate those ideals into our own lives.
Our first award this year goes to a group. Since its inception in 1994, the MIT Committee on Campus Race Relations has greatly enhanced our university's dialogues on race and on culture. Through its publications, sponsored events, and grants programs, this committee has worked to achieve a greater sense of tolerance and appreciation for diversity on our campus.
Above all, however, the committee has promoted a greater sense of shared community. No organization could more thoroughly embody the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Accepting the award on behalf of the committee are its co-chairs, Professor James Chung and Professor Ellen Harris. Would you please come up? And while they're coming, would the other members of the committee please stand to be recognized.
HARRIS: Thank you for this award. Thank you, President Vest.
VEST: She's never called me that in her life.
HARRIS: (LAUGHING) And thank you to the Martin Luther King committee for honoring the work that we have tried to do over the past three years. In terms of the life of Martin Luther King and speaking on behalf of the committee, I think that we can say that Martin Luther King taught us that a dream is a vision and not just wishful thinking, that nonviolent action is an action and not passivity, and that when we cherish our little achievements, that we don't settle for our little achievements, and that we can't change our society by accepting just a little bit here and a little bit there, but we need to think about transformation.
And in light of the dream and the action and the transformation that still needs to come, the Committee on Campus Race Relations accepts this award as an incentive to do much more. Thank you.
VEST: Our next award goes to Myra Rodrigues, a member of the MIT staff who has devoted herself to assisting those in need. In a quarter century of service to the Institute's Social Services and Medical Department, she has proven that one of the best ways to enhance an entire community is to help one person at a time. Many lives have been touched by her compassion and by her wisdom. We cannot think of a more fitting recipient of an award that bears the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Myra.
RODRIGUES: Thank you.
Thank you so much. I know I'm among friends. I just have so much-- I have so many deep and well-meant feelings. Over the years of being here and looking at how Martin Luther King's ideals have affected my life and my work here at MIT, I just want to commend the Martin Luther King committee because I know over the years all the hard work it takes to put an event like this together. And they have worked tirelessly.
I just think, you know, that in being here for 25 years, I was told I should speak for a minute, a minute and a half. That can become difficult for someone who, for the most of one's professional life, has listened and listened and listened. So I will try to stay within that time frame.
I want to say that in being here at MIT all these years, I know that this is the 23rd event that the Martin Luther King committee has presented. But it is not the 23rd year that Martin Luther King Day has been a holiday at MIT. I recall somewhere in the mid '70s that I and John Turner, who was Assistant Dean to the Graduate School, and his wife Clevonne-- the three of us approached who then was Chancellor Gray and had a conversation with him about Martin Luther King Day being an Institute holiday.
This was before it was this national holiday, before it was a state holiday. And we went the rounds and the rounds. And there are times when I think we were like "fools rush in where angels fear to tread" or maybe Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. Not that Dr. Gray's office was the fiery furnace, but we do know that we did not go in there alone.
Dr. Gray talked, and we talked and we negotiated. And he said, well this would have to be taken to the Academic Council. And it was presented to the Academic Council. And it seems that there was very little discussion as to whether it should be. And it was. And this was in 1978.
So MIT was in a leadership role because it was not a national holiday-- nationally until 1986. It was a holiday in Massachusetts in 1985. And we impressed on Dr. Gray that MIT could take a leadership role in this respect. And I said, well, we wouldn't even be the first because BU had already made it a holiday. And he said, well, he was an alumnus of BU. So that's okay.
MIT still has a leadership role to play in that part. My work here at MIT I feel has reflected some of the ideals that I so admire in Dr. King, first his walk as a Christian, his courage, and his commitment. It certainly dovetails with the values that my profession as a social worker holds and the mission of my profession for social and economic justice.
There is another of the many, many, many, many experiences that I could share with you about my experience here at MIT, all that I've learned from the students, the kinds of things that the students who took part in this event today have done over the years, and just the remarkable talents that our African-American students have that sometimes feel thwarted. But with the support and the role that one can play in their lives to see them just bloom and achieve and how often we as African-American adults in the community have to serve as filters to filter out some of the negative messages so they do not incorporate that into who they are.
One of the other things that I just cherish about having been here at MIT is being part of the Building on Differences committee and planning group and being a facilitator in that event. Given the increasing polarization in our society, I believe that this effort needs to be continued, because if people can talk together, get to know each other as individuals, look at their strengths and weaknesses, accept their strengths and weaknesses so they don't have to project those onto other people, that will be a beginning in bringing people together.
I think I better stop. I thought I was speechless.
I thought I was speechless, but I wasn't. Again, I just want to thank President Vest, thank the MIT community, the Martin Luther King committee, and all of my colleagues, because to be an awardee and to have all of the positive feedback from my colleagues who have known me for 25 years and have walked this distance with me is a singular honor. Thank you.
VEST: Well, Myra, you may have thought you were just listening all those years. But I think your actions have been speaking volumes continuously. And that's why you felt all that warmth today. Thank you.
Our third award goes to Professor S. James Gates, distinguished scholar who earned multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees here at MIT, culminating in 1977 with a PhD in physics. Since 1984, he has been a member of the physics faculty at the University of Maryland. He's also served as Chairman of the Howard University Physics Department and was the first director of a NASA-supported Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres.
Although the demands of this professional career could easily be all consuming, Jim has always remained committed to a larger social agenda. A spirited and articulate defender of affirmative action, he exemplifies the potential in our society-- that our society can unlock by providing opportunity to all of its citizens. By achieving greatly and by championing the virtues of diversity in science and in the larger scientific community, Jim sustains both the vision and the excellence embodied by Dr. Martin Luther King. We are honored by his presence here today. Jim.
GATES: Well, on these sorts of occasions, most of us, or a lot of us at least, really are speechless. Of course, I'd like to begin by thanking Chuck, the selection committee for the Martin Luther King celebration. Thanks go to Professor Jerome Friedman and some of my longtime colleagues here, for example Professor Lionel Trilling, Professor Michael Feld, and other members of the physics department that had such a role to play in my career.
As Chuck said in his introduction, I'm a product of this institution, having been an undergraduate, graduate student, and holding my first faculty appointment here. And while it is true that I spend most of my time dreaming about problems that Albert Einstein left us, I also contemplate problems with this nation. It's a great nation. Americans have always been peoples of a dream.
And yet throughout its history, we find that it has been fractally tessellated with problems of an ancient strain. Well, we don't gain anything by running from facts. And in my discipline as a scientist, mathematics and logic are the two things that I can hang my hat on in making progress. So we have to face facts about this nation.
We do not serve her well when we do less than bear our full efforts to the principles upon which this nation was built. It's a struggle that we each meet every day. We must commit ourself to excellence, because in the end, that's what really makes this country a great place. This excellence must be across the board. And yet, many will tell you that a commitment to excellence is at odds with a commitment to equity.
These things are not at odds in my opinion. And in fact throughout my career, I have endeavored to both prove that to be the case in my own personal actions and to pursue policies and actions that allow others to prove this. It is urgent that we continue along these lines of progress. The new millennium is coming, and you certainly hear lots of debate of that in the public conversation.
Some time in the next 50 or so years, European Americans will be in the minority in this population for the first time. We had all better think about the consequences of what that means for this nation, for it would be perhaps the greatest of tragedies if this nation, which I certainly regard as the sweetest of dreams that has been dreamt by our species, were to fall into a situation of a Bosnia.
That's not what I want for my nation. That's not what I want for my children. And that's certainly not what I want for any institution. And that certainly includes this one here. Thank you.
VEST: Thank you, Jim, for those most important words. We've used the term community several times today. And we are part of a civic community as well as an academic one. And we are honored today by the presence of several elected officials from the city of Cambridge. And I would like to recognize their presence and ask them to stand. Here this morning we have our Vice Mayor Kathleen Born-- you'll hear a bit more about her in a moment--
city councillors Ken Reeves,
and Francis Duehay.
Also with us today is former Mayor Walter Sullivan
and one of our state representatives, Paul Demakis. Paul.
And now I would like to turn the podium over to Vice Mayor Kathleen Born, who will present two resolutions on behalf of the city. Before I let go of the microphone, however, I should tell you that Kathy Born is not only one of the leaders of our city. She holds a master's degree from MIT's School of Architecture, which makes us doubly glad to have her here this morning. Vice Mayor Born.
BORN: Thank you President Vest. It's an honor indeed to be here and to bring greetings on behalf of the city of Cambridge. Mayor Russell sends her regrets. She had another engagement. But she offers her thanks to MIT and joins me in congratulations, as do all of my colleagues, to the award recipients that have been honored here today. And also we'd like to extend a very warm welcome from the city of Cambridge to the MIT Visiting Professors who will be honored as well.
I'd like to say a few words about Dr. King briefly. I believe that every one of us carries with us certain mental images of famous people. I like to think of John Kennedy with his hair blowing in the wind, taking the oath of office on the steps of Congress. I think of Bobby Kennedy in a video clip, sort of taking his coat off when he was campaigning.
When someone mentions Abraham Lincoln to me, I don't know why, but my mind is always drawn not to the photographs or to the paintings, but to the image of him in the Lincoln Memorial. When people talk about George Washington, I always think of Washington Allston's famous painting of him standing at the prow of a boat, crossing the river on his way to a battle in Philadelphia. And I imagine that many of you think of Dr. King standing behind a podium or perhaps in a pulpit.
But I have a somewhat different image of him. And it's an image that I really like to think about at this time of year. And I'd like to just share with you a little story about how that image I think came to roost in my brain. When Dr. King was assassinated, I was living overseas. And I had been there for about two years at that point. I was living in Cambridge, England with my husband, who was an engineering student there at the time.
And we were very isolated from what was going on in America. We didn't have a television. We didn't have a telephone. Our contact with the outside world was the London Times that was delivered to our doorstep every day and which carried very little in the way of American news.
We had a little transistor radio that played out very scratchy programs. We had four choices then. You had the BBC program one, program two, program three, and program four. And the BBC at that time carried very little, very little, I would say, authentic news about the turmoil that was going on in America at that time, the turmoil over race relations and the turmoil over the Vietnam War.
We also on occasion were able to borrow a shortwave radio and pull in some of the American, I guess, what's it called? Radio Free America broadcasts. And in fact, we were located quite close to the Lakenheath Air Base. And I believe that they transmitted some of these broadcasts from there. But they were censored broadcasts. And they didn't include much about the anti-everything that was going on in America.
And so I didn't have an awful lot of exposure to Dr. King's speeches and to the movement that he was leading from my perch over there in Cambridge, England. And I remember on the day that Dr. King was assassinated, I learned about it. I was pushing my baby in a stroller down Main Street in Cambridge, England. And someone said, Dr. King's been assassinated! Dr. King's been assassinated! And someone else said, who is Dr. King?
And I remember sort of filling in a group of grocers on who Dr. King was. And I went home in the afternoon and turned on the BBC. And there at last they were playing a whole series of Dr. King's speeches. And I remember sitting there in the dark-- it was just dusk-- listening to those speeches for probably an hour or an hour and a half on the radio. There was very little commentary.
And I should mention that the other way that we got our news is that one of my husband's colleagues had a subscription to Time magazine. And I think he got it a week late, which is what you, if you were an overseas subscriber, you got. And about every month, he would pile together his old Time magazines and leave them on our doorstep so that we would read Time about a month, sometimes two months, late.
And that evening the pile of Time magazines appeared on our doorstep. And in one of the magazines, which was probably published about four weeks before Dr. King's death, there was an article about him. And there was a picture in it that wasn't of him standing behind a pulpit. And it wasn't of him standing behind a microphone. It was a picture of him sitting on a folding chair in a room, preparing for a speech.
It was a, well, it was not a fancy room. It was a room, probably the back room at a church someplace in the South. And there were other people in the room, but they weren't near him. And his head was bent. And I think the caption underneath it, I don't remember very clearly, I think it might have said, Dr. King prepares for a speech. But that's what I believe that he was doing.
And in his face there was a look of just incredible contemplation and incredible thoughtfulness. And for one reason or another I've carried that image of him to this holiday every year. I think that the thing that I admired the most about him was his inner strength and his ability-- I think this goes back to what Dr. Cartwright had said earlier-- his ability to really synthesize the ideas of Christianity and of faith and hope and justice and fairness, and bring them to the people in a way that was accessible to everyone who listened.
I was struck before during Myra Rodrigues' comments. They took me back a little bit to the days in the late '70s and the early '80s when the King holiday had just been proposed. And I remember some of the people who objected to that holiday said, well, January isn't a good time for a holiday. Never mind that this is actually when Dr. King's birthday was.
We've just had a period of great celebration. And everybody's taken holidays at the New Year's and over the Christmas season. And this isn't an appropriate time to have another holiday. And I've really come during the years when this holiday has become a national holiday and when we've all celebrated it the way that we do now with breakfasts and really with a whole month of contemplation, I've really come to feel that January is a perfect time for this holiday.
And I was struck driving down here along Hampshire Street at the way that the world looks in January. The leaves are off of the trees. The light is sort of a gray light, rather than a sunny light. It's really one of my favorite months. And people are always astounded when I say that I love January. But I love January because I think it's a time for us all to look inward and to gather strength from what we can find in our own hearts and our own minds.
And I associate that with my image of Dr. King sitting there quietly on his folding chair, paying no attention to the people who were around him. I think he was gathering strength for the moment when he would stand up behind the microphone or in the pulpit and bring his message of hope and justice and action to all of us. So I welcome you all here on behalf of the city.
I would like to present this resolution to Dr. Vest, which is a resolution thanking MIT for putting on this breakfast and also congratulating all the people we're honoring here today. And I would like to call my colleague, former Mayor Ken Reeves to the podium. He has a resolution that he would like to present, welcoming our keynote speaker. Thank you all.
REEVES: I'm going to be characteristically brief. I wanted to say hi to check in, Becky. And it's always nice to be at MIT. And congratulations to our honorees, our very own Myra Rodrigues, who, believe it or not, is the real Cantabrigian, and Professor Gates and to the Committee on Race Relations.
But really why I'm here and why you're having two civic proclamations is that I beat them to the punch. I heard that you were having Elaine Jones. And I said, well, I am going to be sure we give her a special welcome. I don't know if you know who our speaker is this morning. But she is a true drum majorette for justice. She is a national treasure.
She has traveled the highways and byways of this country to assure that there can be equal justice for all. And she's really a profound example to me of someone who truly leads a meaningful life, who really does something that's important. And soon you're going to know she's a great favorite of mine. I could listen to her all day. She has a certain inimitable way that you're going to hear all about.
Many of us hear about heroes. She for me is a true shero. And she is special, very special. Now, she has come here before for many of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lunches. And I happened to spend two minutes with her and my buddy Nancy Gibbs from the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Congressional Black Caucus, which I sort of treasure those kinds of moments when somebody who really inspires you is around.
So if you really want to know who is really doing this Martin Luther King kind of work today, you have got it. And you know, I never go to breakfast, ever, ever go to breakfast. But-- I just don't do it. It's too early. It's just too early to get people up. And I think the last time I was here for breakfast you had another shero, which was Coretta Scott King.
So Elaine Jones, I never come to breakfast. But I heard they was having you. So I wanted us all to give you a real Cambridge welcome for somebody who so marvelously, with such sagacity, goes and sort of represents truth and justice for all. And I'm glad to know you are representing us wherever you go. Welcome to Cambridge, this special little place. Thank you.
VEST: Thank you, Ken. And thank you, Kathy. Now, you know, when you have a job like mine, you're always standing up, receiving the credit for things that other people do. And there've been a lot of people that work hard to make events like this a success. We've got a great committee, a great group of students.
But everybody in this room knows it takes a couple of spark plugs to really make something like this go and just get better year after year. So I'd like once again as I hold this award in my hand to recognize Leo Osgood and Michael Feld, our co-chairs.
SHELL: Thank you to you both, Ms. Katherine Born and Mr. Kenneth Reeves. It is now my pleasure to introduce Dr. Joel Moses, the former Dean of the School of Engineering here at MIT and now provost. Provost Moses will take the time to recognize and introduce this year's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors. Provost Moses.
MOSES: It is my privilege to introduce the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors this year. Chuck mentioned the spark plugs of this committee. And a couple of years ago, they came to visit the various councils, the Engineering Council, which I chaired at the time, the Science Council-- they talked to the provost.
And they had an idea of creating a Visiting Professor Program. And contrary to MIT, this one actually got implemented very quickly, and within a few months, largely through the work of my predecessor, Mark Wrighton. And this year, we have the second slate of Visiting Professors. And obviously this program is intended to enhance and recognize the contribution of minority scholars through a greater presence of these minority scholars on the MIT campus.
And this year, we have six Visiting Professors, of whom four happen to be here. And I can-- I will ask them to stand up in a minute or so. Last year, we had four. And the fourth one happens to be Wes Harris. He stood up before. But he could stand up again. Wes has rejoined his original Department
of Aeronautics and Astronautics. And we all are very, very pleased by that. Let me introduce the six in turn. The first one is Mr. Ernesto Cortés, who happens to be the Director of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation and also Director of a more general foundation, Industrial Areas Foundation of the southwest region. This foundation creates and supervises community-based organizations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Nebraska, as well as the United Kingdom.
His education-- he's got a Bachelor's degree in English and Economics at Texas A&M and did some additional graduate studies in economics at University of Texas in Austin. He is a Professor of Urban Studies and Planning. And one of the many awards he's received was a MacArthur Fellowship for his work in community organizing, which he received in 1984. So although he's not here, would you please give a hand to Mr. Cortés.
Next is Professor Richard Joseph, who is visiting us in the Department of Political Science. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College, a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from New College, Oxford, and Doctor of Philosophy in 1973 from Nuffield College in Oxford. What I learned at breakfast this morning is, of course, the reason he was at Oxford is he's a Rhodes Scholar. He is currently the Asa Candler Professor of Political Science at Emory University. His teaching and research interests include African politics and political thought and politics and literature. Professor Joseph, please stand up.
Steven Lee is visiting Department of Mathematics, teaches one of my favorite courses, 1806. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics from Yale and Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, hurray, from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include differential and algebraic equations. And the work he's done has applications to groundwater modeling and computational fluid dynamics. He has a post at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and in addition to which he is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the Department of Computer Science. Professor Lee.
Dr. Oliver McGee III is visiting currently the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio State University and a Master of Science, PhD from the University of Arizona. He's an associate professor at Georgia Tech in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, which presumably is in the College of Engineering.
And the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently named him the 1995 Georgia Professor of the Year. Congratulations. And current research interests include computational mechanics, as well as-- his interests include also interdisciplinary design optimization in civil and in aerospace structural systems. Professor McGee.
Dr. William Wyatt Quivers, Jr. Is currently the chairman of the Department of Physics at Wellesley College. He has gotten a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Morehouse College and a few years later a PhD in Physics at MIT's Physics Department. And his research is on laser spectroscopy. He's had a long association with Dr. Feld. And he's come here to work with him yet again. So please stand up, Dr. Quivers.
Finally, I'd like to mention and introduce Professor Walter Rodriguez, who is currently visiting this Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a full professor, holder of Louis Berger Chair and Design at Tufts University. Hispanic American, he's born in Puerto Rico. And he has provided leadership both within his technical field and in the recruitment, promotion, and retention of underrepresented minorities and women in engineering education and practice.
He brings to MIT a varied and valued set of backgrounds and interests, both in civil engineering and in architecture. And currently his teaching area is construction management, which is an area of great interest in Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Would you please give a hand to Dr. Rodriguez.
Now, last year we had four. This year we have six. Hopefully, next year, even more. We'll see you then.
SHELL: Thank you very much, Provost Moses. I'd now like to invite President Vest back up to give some remarks and to introduce our keynote speaker, Miss Elaine Jones. Thank you.
VEST: I'm going to tell you a secret. We've been hearing a lot about drum majors today. Oliver McGee was the drum major of the Ohio State Marching Band. And I don't know how many of you know the significance of that position. But Becky and I used to sit in the stands in Ann Arbor and watch him in between the drubbing of the football team.
It's the fate of every university president to face a heavy schedule of speaking engagements throughout the year. Some of these engagements, frankly, are onerous. Many are pleasant. Some are an honor. Most are a duty. But a few are inspirations. And this one always is such an event, perhaps the most inspiring of the year.
We celebrate together the ideals and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for many reasons-- for the challenges he called us to meet, for the courage he dared us to match, for the stirring eloquence that moved our hearts and transformed our nation. Most often, however, we say that we honor Dr. King's dream. And certainly his dream is as powerful today as it was in 1964 when, in a single address, he became the nation's most compelling voice for racial equality and social progress.
But Martin Luther King, Jr. was above all, as many have said this morning, a man of action. His dream is memorable and important precisely because he did so much to make it a reality. If we wish to honor him, as Jim Gates said, we must do the same. To dream his dream is not enough, nor can we build a society of which he dream by command or by decree. Rather we must work proactively to build it through the environments and the opportunities we create for learning and working.
In the years since Dr. King's death, many of our nation's colleges and universities have made a deliberate effort to infuse his dream with some small measure of reality. Over time, one important pathway to his goals, which we have come to call affirmative action, has yielded substantial results. For example, the US Census data tells us that today between-- excuse me-- that between 1980 and 1992, the aggregate percentage of minorities in the US population has remained fairly stable at just over 25%.
In that time, however, the percentage of minority undergraduates at US colleges and universities rose from 17.3% to 23.5%. And that is progress by any standard. At the graduate education level, the rate of increase is comparable. But we do need to accelerate the pace in order to reach a more acceptable absolute number. In 1992, just over 15% of the graduate students in America were minority students.
Now that's a bit about the national picture. But how about here at home at MIT? Well, I have to say that while we must continue worrying about how to do better, within this context of national figures, we do have some things to be proud about. And I want to share them because it really is largely due to many of the people sitting in this room that we have come as far as we have come.
Just yesterday, I received a report regarding the enrollment of minority and women students in engineering programs throughout the US. And it shows the following over the last five years. MIT is in fact in the top 10 in terms of the number of engineering degrees awarded at all levels to women, to African-American students, and to Hispanic-American students. The others in that list of top 10 are Georgia Tech, CCNY, and seven historically black colleges and universities.
And MIT ranks number two in the country in terms of the number of engineering doctoral degrees awarded to African-Americans. And we are number one in terms of the number of engineering doctoral degrees awarded both to Hispanic-American students and to women. We should be proud of these rankings. But the actual numbers show how far we still have to go.
During this period, we have awarded a total of 1,207 engineering doctorate degrees. We've awarded a total of 170 of these to women, 19 to Hispanic-Americans, and 16 to African-Americans. So just look at that absolute number, how small in fact they are. Yet they still place us number one and number two in the country.
With such numbers, despite their recent growth, it is no wonder that there are so few minorities and women on the faculties of our colleges and universities. Minorities still make up only 12% of the American professoriate, and only 8 and 1/2% of those who are full professors. The situation is far worse if we look specifically at the fields of science and engineering. MIT is a case in point. Clearly we have much more to do.
To me, at least, these numbers have two important implications. The first is that whatever its imperfections, affirmative action has improved access and opportunity to women and to minorities in America. The second is that affirmative action, as most of us know from personal experience, is the hardest to achieve, the most gradual in its impact at the highest levels of our society. Real progress at these levels will occur only with more time, but much more importantly, with more effort.
Is such an effort necessary? These numbers suggest that exclusion and discrimination are not merely historical artifacts, but are continuing realities. They also suggest that steady pressure must be maintained until results are seen at the top. To quit now will simply mean long-term stratification of opportunity, a permanent glass ceiling, if you will.
Why, then, is affirmative action in higher education under attack from so many quarters? This past July, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Hopwood versus University of Texas that quote, "any consideration of race or ethnicity by the law school for the purpose of achieving a diverse student body is not a compelling interest," quote, and therefore is not permitted, at least in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The repeal of affirmative action by the University of California's Board of Regents gained national attention during the presidential campaign. In Colorado the governing board of the university system has cut back on its affirmative action programs. Most disturbingly, California voters approved a measure which would forbid any state agency or school from taking race or gender into account for purposes of hiring or admissions. As you know, implementation of this measure is on hold, pending the outcome of several legal challenges.
I believe that much of the support for these assaults on affirmative action derives from a fundamental ignorance about the true position of minorities in our nation. That ignorance was amply demonstrated in a survey conducted in September of 1995. This study indicated that 41% of white Americans believe that economically, African-Americans were just as well or better off than whites. 44% of our white population, according to this survey, believe that African-Americans are just as well off or better off in terms of educational achievement.
On the question of economic well-being, the reality is that the mean household income for African-Americans, despite its rise, is still only 65% that of white households. In terms of education, enrollment and employment for African-Americans, especially in graduate schools, as I noted, and on faculties continues to lag very substantially.
In addition to this ignorance, this lack of knowledge about the present reality, I believe that part of the problem can be attributed to ignorance about the population trends in the United States. While minorities account for approximately a quarter of our population today, that figure will rise to over 30% just by 2005, nearly 34% in 2015, and presumably will continue to climb. These trends suggest to me, if we just want to be pragmatic if nothing else, that the economic health of our nation in the next century will rest squarely on the productivity, achievement, and skills of a workforce that is going to be increasingly diverse.
In a technology-driven, post-industrial economy, an economy in which education is the single most important contributor to success, our nation simply cannot afford to shortchange or ignore the educational aspirations of its historically disadvantaged citizens. And even as America's population becomes increasingly diverse, the average age of Americans is also increasing. Many of us feel this quite personally. So these days, because the age is creeping up, we all hear a lot about what? The future of Social Security.
Now just think about this for a minute. White baby boomers are going to depend, for their retirement, on taxes paid into the system by a workforce that is markedly more diverse than that that exists today. If that diverse workforce has not received the best education we can give it, then we will face the likelihood of severely constrained Social Security benefits.
I know that even in the face of these realities, there are many in America who still argue that affirmative action is not a necessary or valuable tool in building a more equitable and productive society. Even deprived of the argument that affirmative action doesn't work or that we don't need it anymore, they will fall back on the idea that it is wrong, because it violates the concept of colorblindness, which Dr. King himself characterized so eloquently as the ability to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
These are two responses to the challenge of affirmative action. One of these two challenges has been made with particular eloquence by one of the winners of today's Martin Luther King Leadership Award. In July, 1995 issue of The Scientist magazine, Jim Gates wrote of the value of genetic diversity and promoting the survival, performance, vigor, and adaptability of biological systems. He suggested by analogy that the same principle could and should be applied to human societies.
This nation, he argued, desperately needs to use all the means at its disposal to achieve the highest level of performance and the increasingly international competition in science and technology. Diversity, he said, in both nature and other fields of human endeavor, has shown to lend itself to increased levels of performance. It is not prudent at least to be open-- is it not prudent, at least, to be open to this possibility in the pursuit of excellence in scientific, engineering, and technological achievement? Jim's inspired defense of the value of diversity may be extended from science and technology to our society as a whole.
We must pursue them because they are right and just. That is why we need to honor and to emulate Dr. King. For although he was a pragmatic activist, he never let his pragmatism dilute his idealism. He knew that only moral leadership could move mountains and transform nations.
I hope, therefore, that the students, faculty, and staff of MIT will join me during the year ahead in a renewed effort to sustain our university's commitment to diversity and opportunity in all aspects of our scholarship and our professional lives. Perhaps such a commitment is in part just an expression of pragmatic self-interest. It also is an expression of an abiding sense of justice. Let us together pursue these goals as Dr. King did, not because they are good for us, but simply because they are good. Thank you.
And now, now it is a truly great privilege and pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker. The position of director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund was defined by its first occupant, Thurgood Marshall. Because of Thurgood Marshall's reputation and legacy, it is a position of immense influence and importance in the continuing legal struggle to secure equal rights for America's disadvantaged citizens. There can be no doubt, however, that the current director-counsel is up to that task.
The 1968 honors graduate from Howard University, Miss Jones spent two years in Turkey with the Peace Corps. She returned to attend law school at the University of Virginia and became the first African-American woman to graduate from this illustrious institution. Then she was given a choice. One of Wall Street's most prestigious firms offered her the kind of job that so many law-school graduates dream of.
But, as she said in an interview this last summer, "money wasn't the reason I chose the law. I went to law school to use the law to serve the people." And so she joined the staff of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where with only two years off for good behavior, she's been working ever since. Those two years, by the way, she spent in the Carter administration's Department of Transportation, where she served as Special Assistant to Secretary William T. Coleman, Jr.
During her more than 25 years with the Legal Defense and Education Fund, she has argued many significant cases, beginning in 1972 with Furman versus Georgia, a landmark Supreme Court ruling that put a stop to the death penalty in 37 states. In addition to her courtroom work, she has also compiled an impressive record as a federal legislative advocate and has worked closely with Congress in shaping such critical civil rights legislation as the voting rights amendment of 1982, the Fair Housing Act of 1988, the Civil Rights Act of 1988, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Please join me in welcoming to MIT and our community Elaine R. Jones.
JONES: You have been a marvelous audience. This has been a wonderful program. It is now 10:15. You're going to see what kind of lawyer I am, whether or not this is a lady that knows how to get to the point, say what she has to say, and sit down. We'll see.
Where did I hear it? Was it Martin? Who was it that said, how long, old speaker, how long? Not long, my captive audience. Not long. Thank you. Thank you very much, President Vest, for that wonderful introduction. This has been a wonderful program.
I am honored for the opportunity to be with you on this your 23rd celebration of the life of Dr. King. That is impressive, 23 years. When I came here, out to MIT, 23 years? Martin, very, very, very good. I also, just having listened to your speakers and your honorees, you know, Eto and Cedric, you know, I was willing to cede some time. You know, if you had asked for it, you could have had a little of my time.
I have Jim Gates, the whole question of the sweetest of dreams, the idea of the nation. Myra Rodrigues, you could have had all of my time, all of my time. And Professor Ellen Harris and Dr. Vest, it's been wonderful.
We take this occasion just to stop and remind ourselves that Martin was a man of action. And so that's what each one of us is called to do in whatever role in life we find ourselves, is to act and to act on principles and issues of importance.
Now, I look around, and I see the honorees. And I think of action, and I see Wesley Harris sitting out there, my classmate. I was the first African-American woman admitted to the University of Virginia. And needless to say, Wes was the first of-- to enter the Engineering Department at the school, at the University of Virginia.
And I guess Mr. Jefferson's university looked around in 1967 and said, what have we wrought? What have we done with these two? I mean, we were dashiki and Afro and sandals. But we were there to graduate. We would tell one another, we're not going to be a statistic. We're going to graduate from this university. While we're here, we're going to make the difference that we can make.
But Virginia is going to have to deal with us. And I mean, we, we had some issues. I mean, Charlottesville. They often ask me, how, Elaine did you cope? And my response was, I had just come from two years in a Peace Corps in Turkey. And it was rather that Charlottesville was a breeze next to Ankara. So it's all relative. It's all relative.
But let me tell you, in looking at Martin's life and what we're talking about the strength of love and the issues of the underclass, in my work at the Legal Defense Fund, you ask, well, who are we? Who is LDF? We're not the NAACP. The name is NAACP Legal Defense Fund, but we are separate.
If you come up to me and ask me, how is Kweisi? and how is Myrlie? I would tell you, I'm sure they're fine, you know. But LDF is a separate organization, a civil rights law firm, spun off from the NAACP in 1940. Thurgood Marshall was our first director-counsel, followed by Jack Greenberg in 1961, Julius Chambers in 1984. And I became director-counsel in 1993.
We have had more cases in the High Court than any other organization, with the single exception of the Solicitor General's Office of the Department of Justice, over 500 cases. We know how to litigate. That we know how to do.
But as director-counsel, since I've been director-counsel, I have been trying to use our legal skills in other capacities as well, to try to negotiate and mediate some of these disputes, to try to get in a community and recognize some of the problems and use our legal skills, short of having to file a complaint. Then if we have to file it, we'll file it. But that is a whole area in terms of pushing and promoting these issues that LDF has been able to make a difference in over the past few years. And I just want to share a few of those with you.
One of the first issues we should think about is, we are often divided on subjects of the civil rights laws. We are-- they're trying to pit men against women, women against men, the disabled against the aged. And what is missing is a full understanding that these issues are interrelated. When you think of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, what de-- Our cases are not determined by the race of the plaintiff. It is the issue that is presented.
To give you an example, you have to be strategic, as Martin was, when you're thinking about the High Court and what we're going to do and how we're going to go about bringing these cases. A year ago a case came to me, white female from Tennessee, age discrimination case, 62 years old, dismissed. Brought the lawsuit. In her deposition, which is her sworn testimony, it was discovered that she had taken some documents home. So that was a dismissible offense.
And so the corporation argued, well, even if we did dismiss her on the basis of age, although we don't admit that, even if we did, that was negated by the fact that she had taken these documents home. And that was something called the after-acquired-evidence rule, you know. They make this complicated, but it's not. The after-acquired-evidence rule, and it went up to the Court of Appeals and through the District Court. And they ruled against her.
Her lawyer came to the Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and asked us to take that case to the High Court this past year. I looked at it and I wondered about what Thurgood would do. And I decided, yes, we would take that case for several reasons. One, it's a age case. And it doesn't hurt. The Supreme Court sometimes has difficulty looking at race claims or understanding a gender claim. But age, I thought they would all understand.
Not only that, you look at the current Texans coming from Tennessee. And it doesn't hurt that it's not an African-American plaintiff, that it is a white female, because there are two women on the court who seem to understand those issues. So that's why I thought it best to bring an issue in the gender context. We won that case, 9-0, every member of the court, because it's the point that Martin has made about the interrelationship of our issues, how we all think together.
We swim together or we think, his quote is, the black community cannot win this victory alone. But intelligent men and women of goodwill everywhere must see this as their task and contribute to its support. He says, if we look earnestly for coalition, we will find it. If we choose polarization, it will not require much effort.
But we have got, we have got opportunities here when we understand how our issues, issues that affect women, issues that affect disabled, and as a lawyer, these statutes are all interrelated. This whole notion of an after-acquired-evidence rule, if it had seeped into the law, it would have negated a lot of cases that have come under different provisions-- age, disabled, and race.
Now, as we look at this notion of an activist society, we have to be committed to something other than self. We have to have a sense of community and a shared sense of joy and pain. We have to be involved in activities that affect the interests of the larger community.
Your president, in a Report of the President, 1995-96, writes, "today we have evolved into a truly paradoxical situation. We have, by a huge margin, the greatest and most effective system of higher education in the world-- in terms of quality, accessibility, and creation of new knowledge." He goes on to say, "at the same time, we have a system of primary and secondary education that is a national shame, one that is a surefire determinant of national decline if it is not corrected."
He is right. LDF agrees. And we have been fighting these issues of school desegregation for 40 years. And what the public does not understand is that when they come to us and say, well, Elaine why don't you look more at issues involving quality of education, rather than a desegregated education? because, see, in Brown versus Board of Education, integrated education was an independent ground. It was an important independent ground and is still of great value that we have a desegregated environment for our children.
But putting that aside, where is it in the law that that is a federal right to equal access to public education, equal access to quality public education? It does not exist as a matter of federal law. It is not in our Constitution. There is no constitutional amendment or provision which provides that right.
So if you're going to look at the issues of quality in schools, you have to do it through the 14th Amendment, through equal protection analysis. So if I go into court, I have no jurisdictional basis, as a matter of federal law, to go into court and argue for equality of opportunity in inner-city schools. It's a shame, but it's the way it is.
So what do we have to do? We have to be creative. LDF looked at all of the state constitutions a few years ago. And we were looking for a state constitutional provision which gave us the strong language we needed to challenge the quality of schools in a particular inner city. Didn't have the city in mind, had to find the constitutional provision first. Looked at the ones from all of the states.
And what did we find? There's a very strong one in Connecticut, adopted in 1968, which provided for equal educational opportunity and access for all students to education, public quality education. So then we go to Connecticut. And in Connecticut, we see the deplorable situation in the Hartford public schools. And we say, well, this will be the test case.
In Hartford, we see all of the inner-city students, regardless of race, regardless of race-- Latino, white, black, makes no difference. We represented all of the students within the Hartford public schools. And we filed in 1990, on behalf of 17 African-American, Latino, and white public-school children, a complaint against the State Board of Education, the governor, and other officials. And we alleged that the Hartford metropolitan schools were segregated on the basis of race, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status.
And because the Hartford schools are educationally deficient, when compared to the suburban schools, we alleged that the defendants failed to provide plaintiffs an equal opportunity to a free public education as required by the Connecticut Constitution. Then we went on to say that the sharp segregation of the students on the basis of race, which was palpable in Hartford, by itself, violated the Constitution. We tried that case before the State Court in 1990 and all the way through 1992. The Trial Court issued an opinion on November 30, 1994, ruling against us.
We then had developed quite a record. So we went to the Connecticut Supreme Court. And the Connecticut Supreme Court heard that case in September of 1995 on expedited appeal and this past July 9 released a decision in which they ruled for us. They ruled that the combination of racial segregation created substantially unequal education opportunity and requires the state to take further remedial measures. In other words, it was the first time we had gotten a State Supreme Court, based on its own Constitution, to determine that the quality of education being awarded to those inner-city schools was constitutionally deficient.
Now we're in the remedial phase. What is the remedy? Working with the governor, working with the legislature, trying to decide what it is that we do in terms of allocation of resources among those districts, all kinds of resources so those kids will be able to compete. If we can work this out in Hartford and we can take this win, which is a very important victory, and transport it to other jurisdictions. But you have been reading about it maybe in The New York Times. But that is a case that came about because of some creative lawyering. And now the community has decided to support the litigation.
Your president mentioned Hopwood. You cannot litigate these cases if you are viewing the case as a means to win public office somewhere in the future. You can't litigate by press conference, not if you really want to represent the interests of folk. And Hopwood is an example of litigation by press conference.
First, you had a plan there that the University of Texas had been told by several, including us, that it was doubtful whether that plan could pass constitutional muster. Told them in 1990 and '91 to make some changes in the plan. When the plan was challenged and they lost the case in their District Court, went on up to the Court of Appeals. When it got to the Court of Appeals, lost it before the three judges.
At that point they wanted to go to the Supreme Court of the United States. Why would one want to take an affirmative action case in higher education last term to this court if one had an alternative? When a three-judge court rules against you, that is the entire court of 17 judges who were prepared to hear the case. The motion was never filed to ask the entire court to hear the case.
Instead, the lawyers were so busy trying to get their day in a Supreme Court with the press and PR, that they overlooked the court that they were in, intentionally overlooked the court they were in, because we asked them to file. Once having filed in the Supreme Court, the remaining judges, seven of them, that had not been on the original panel in the Court of Appeals, wrote an opinion. They no longer had jurisdiction. They wrote an opinion, and they said, where is the case?
We disagree with the opinion that our brothers have written. Where is the case? We want an opportunity to speak to these issues. No longer had jurisdiction, can never speak. The Supreme Court then decided not to hear the case, and very fortunate they didn't hear it. Very fortunate they didn't hear the case on these facts. Supreme Court didn't hear it. So what is left standing?
What is left standing is the original decision written by the three judges. Whereas if the petition for rehearing had been filed, the conclusion of the court may have been the same, but the opinion would have been different. You would not have a lower court trying to overrule Bakke.
So I just say that there are special circumstances to these cases. Hopwood, as President Vest has told you, is Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. And even with Hopwood, that was an agreement of all of the parties that the plan that Texas has adopted was unconstitutional. And the reason the Supreme Court didn't take the case is because the Court has said there's no issue here in controversy.
There may be another affirmative action case in the Supreme Court within the next couple of years. Right now, Bakke continues to be good law. The last time I looked, a lower court cannot overrule a Supreme Court decision. The last time I checked that out, couldn't be done. Now, the court has spoken at Adarand and some of the affirmative action cases. But even in those cases, the court has not declared those programs unconstitutional. It has sent them back to the lower court for review.
One final point about how we sometimes can get misguided and where we need to go and how we need to get there. And then I'm going to sit down. Jim is from the University of Maryland. The relationship between Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King is an interesting one. Thurgood Marshall, as head of the Legal Defense Fund, and Martin Luther King was engaged in his direct action. And it is reported that Thurgood thought that Martin was endangering the lives of folks and said, well, Martin you know, maybe you don't want to have so much mass direct action.
And Martin said, no, it takes two. It takes you, Thurgood, doing what you are doing. And it takes me having this mass action, being out in the community, in the street, and forcing people to take notice of these issues. And he said, I'm going to do what I must do. And if you, Thurgood, are the lawyer that I think you are, then you come down and get me out of jail. And that is what LDF spent the sixties doing.
Now, Thurgood, Thurgood Marshall, our first director-counsel, when he graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1933, first in his class, the first thing that he did, his first order of business was to sue the University of Maryland, because Thurgood had applied to the University of Maryland for admission. And Maryland had a rule, no blacks. And they refused to admit him on the basis of race.
So when he graduated, he had that unfinished business to take care of. So he and Charlie Houston filed a lawsuit against Maryland to admit the first black to the law school, Murray versus the University of Maryland. And they won it. And so that was the whole series of cases during the thirties and forties, the cases that were the precursors to Brown.
But the point is Maryland. Maryland had that long history of discrimination, overt, palpable, clear discrimination against African-Americans, from '36 all the way through. In 1970, Maryland was one of the 11 states as part of the Adams litigation. It involved 17 southern states looking at the higher education systems.
Maryland had been in such violation of this elementary principle that the Office of Civil Rights told Maryland, look, you need to do something. Set up a scholarship program. You know, you need to do something to let African-Americans know that they are welcome in this institution. Maryland, then recognizing that they needed to do business differently, set up the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship program to admit high-achieving inner-city African-American students and to give them a scholarship.
The program worked beautifully throughout the late '70s, worked almost too well, I guess, because it did begin to change the character and culture at Maryland. That program was challenged. LDF came in with the Attorney General's Office and spent thousands of dollars defending the program, had a Reagan judge, a six-week trial, a 56-page opinion, in which the judge upheld the program.
Then it went upstairs to the Court of Appeals. Body language means everything. We argued the case before the Court of Appeals. The judges were turned to the side, sideways, weren't even looking at us as we were making our arguments. I hoped that they had read the papers. And we-- we lost it in no time flat. It took them a couple of weeks to write an opinion.
But here's what they had done. They struck down the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship program, which did begin to make the difference at Maryland, a program to bring in inner-city, high-achieving African-American students. We pay $20,000 a year for an inmate in general population, eating three meals a day, looking at television. We spend $75,000 a year for an inmate in solitary confinement. And we cannot spend $5,000 a year for inner-city, high-achieving African-American student to get higher education.
At the same time that the circuit strikes down that program, these other programs are in place and are fine. Scholarship programs for descendants of early Dutch settlers, scholarship programs for American citizens of Canadian descent, scholarship programs for students of Greek descent for middle-income families, scholarships for students born in Hong Kong, scholarships for students from Taiwan, scholarships for females who do not use tobacco, scholarships--
scholarships for students of Chinese and Japanese descent, scholarships for deserving students of Italian descent from upstate New York. I mean, it goes on and on. So how warped we become when we look at these questions of race, especially in a remedial context.
I want to say that there are lots of structural issues of discrimination out here that we are coping with. We just, we just had a major case in Los Angeles. You go to LA, and you can't get a bus. The massive transportation system there is a multibillion-dollar transportation system.
They had a $348 million surplus. And they were building six rail out to back Pasadena, where folks in the inner city can't get a bus to go to work, to go to day care, to go to the drugstore, to go to a supermarket. No buses. The people are subsidized coming in from the suburbs. Two cars in the garage, getting a subsidy from their employer to take mass transit. Folk in the city, nothing.
LDF came in to the public hearings, pleading. No lawsuit filed, part of the director-counsel. No obligation on her lawyers. Go to the public hearing, try to reason with--
--takes money. I mean, my Supreme Court law clerks come to me at $35- and $40,000. That's it. That's what we pay. But these are people who, in the tradition of Martin, understand the purpose of the law is, in the first instance, is to bring some justice to the people, is to make a difference in the lives of people. And I want to thank you for the invitation to be with you today.
And I just-- it's very, very important as we look about the country and see the issues that are going on, to think about what your speaker last year said to you, Julius Chambers. Julius asked you last year, who was my predecessor as director-counsel, why are we gathered here today to commemorate Dr. King? Are we gathered to praise and endorse his teachings?
He says, do we seriously believe that America would ever eliminate considerations of race? Or are we simply commemorating an imagined memory, showing our faces to prove that we are not racist? Are we giving lip service with little or no commitment to the dreams of Dr. King?
Well, charity begins at home. And I'm here for the next day. And you know, there are some issues here with the school system in Boston. There are some very-- I mean, I have never seen a more rigidly stratified system, where students are trapped in elementary school. The test they're giving in the eighth grade largely determines where they're going to go. I mean, at first, it's within the classroom, and then a separate classroom, and then a separate school.
Now, maybe it exists elsewhere in the country. And I'm looking for it, I assure you. I'm looking for it. But I haven't seen it. That kind of thing needs to be looked at. I mean, and it needs to be handled by the folk at home who can see what impact this is having on their aspirations, hopes, and development of kids.
Are you really measuring a child's aptitude at age eight, so as to lock that kid in to a special track for the next 10 years? Are you doing it? And so it's a very, very real issue. And I invite you to look at it and work on it and investigate it and study it. If you need a little help, let me know.
I want to end with this thought. And that is, you know I have the nerve to paraphrase Longfellow, Longfellow. But it's what Martin's life was about and what he taught us.
Lives of great men and women all remind us, we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind us footprints-- Martin left footprints-- on the sands of time, footprints that perhaps another, sailing o'er life's solemn main, forlorn or shipwrecked brother or sister, seeing shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing, action, doing, with a heart for anything, still achieving, still pursuing. Learn to labor and to wait. I thank you all very, very much.
SHELL: On behalf of the entire MIT community, Mrs. Jones, thank you very much.
We continue our program with some announcements relevant to our celebration. Tomorrow evening and all day Saturday, we'll be sponsoring a daylong youth conference entitled Building Bridges for Youth into the Future. We're expecting over 300 youth from both Cambridge and Boston.
As well, I'd like to announce that the Martin Luther King committee presents Journey into a Dream, a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Semenya McCord and Associates. This musical presentation will be held on Saturday, February 8, at 8 PM in Kresge Auditorium. Both of these events are free and open to the public.
As well, we'd like to thank our awardees' families, Dr. Gates's wife Diana-- an MIT alum-- and Miss Myra Rodrigues' parents, church, and family for attending. Thank you.
And as a final announcement, as you exit both doors, a book, Reflections of the Dream, 1975-1994, will be on sale. The book documents 20 years of celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at MIT. And it's edited by Dr. Clarence Williams.
At this time, ladies and gentlemen, in your program are the words to the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by Mr. James Weldon Johnson. At this time, everyone please rise, join hands, and follow along as soloist Miss Juanetta Jackson and pianist George W. Russell, Jr. lead us in singing.
[MUSIC - "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING"]
JACKSON: (SINGING) Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven rings, rings with the harmony of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening sky, let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, facing the rising sun our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the hayseed rod, felt in the days when hope unborn has died. Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way with the tears that been watered. We have come, treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered. Out of the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is born.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far on our way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, who met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forgot thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand. True to our God, true to our native land. Lift every voice and sing. Lift every voice and sing. Lift every voice and sing.
SHELL: You may be seated. I was very careful not to let the microphone pick up my voice. I'd like to call Reverend Constance F. Parvey to return to the stage. She'll offer the benediction to close this morning's program. Reverend Parvey.
PARVEY: Thank you. Oh, what a beautiful morning when the stars came out to shine. It's that kind of day. Let us pray. Gracious Lord, as we here have been blessed by coming together in this common celebration, may we go forth not only celebrating, but leading the journey into a world culture where there is no race, racism, no prejudice, where all really can achieve what they are endowed with our inalienable rights, that all of us may become instruments of justice, of truth, of reconciliation, and peace. This we pray as we celebrate this day, our brother Martin, and all his friends. Amen.
SHELL: Thank you, Reverend Parvey. Ladies and gentlemen, this marks the end of our program. I hope everyone has enjoyed themselves as much as I have. Thank you all for coming. And I hope to see you next year. This concludes the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast. Thank you, and good day.