29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at MIT - Julian Bond
CHOIR: (SINGING) The spring of April's gone. The leaves have all turned brown. The children are all grown up and there's no one around. I'm looking over my life and all the mistakes I've made. And I'm afraid. Afraid.
Somebody told me that You would wash all my sins. And cleanse me from the scars that are so deep within. So I'm calling to You. If You can hear me, I don't know how. I was wondering, can You hold me now?
You are the only one that's patient when I fall. Your angels come to save me every time I call. You don't laugh at me when I make mistakes and cry. You're not like man. You understand me.
See, people change one day. They don't like you. The next, they do. I wish that everyone could love me just like You. So here I am, this sinful man, peace won't allow. I was wondering, can You hold me now? I was wondering, can You hold me now?
Oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh. To every broken person that may hear this song. To every boy or girl that feels their smile is gone. I know exactly how it feels to lay in the bed at night and cry. And cry.
Don't you worry, God is patient and He cares about the tears you drop and the pain you feel. He's there. When you are weak, that's when He's strong, even though you don't know how. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. God can, and He will hold you now. God can, and He will hold you now. God can, and He will hold you now.
Don't you worry, He can hold you now. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.
PRESENTER 1: Now I have the pleasure of introducing two of our very own students, Kateri Garcia, a senior in mechanical engineering, and Ayanna Samuels, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics, who will guide us in a reflection of the life and legacy of Dr. King.
We will first hear from Kateri Garcia, class of 2003. Kateri?
GARCIA: Thank you, Michelle. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
GARCIA: My name is Kateri Garcia, and I am a senior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and I'm currently the president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I am honored yet humbled to stand here today to reflect upon and pay homage to one of our nation's most courageous and inspirational heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Dr. King will perhaps forever be known in our histories texts as the man with the dream.
"I have a dream," he said, "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." 40 years later, we quote Dr. King with the presumption that time is fully realized his dream. Though time has indeed seen our nation through great transformation, even the course of four decades has not been enough to realize the dream. And today's theme, Faces at the Bottom of the Well, the Nightmare of Reality Versus Dr. King's Dream, reminds us that social injustice is not necessarily a dysfunction of our history, but rather a tragedy of the present.
Social inequality is an issue that we face today, and the dream voiced by Dr. King four decades ago is still only a dream today. The dream was to make all citizens of the United States truly equal. As we take time to reflect upon the changes of our nation, since the days of slavery, since the Emancipation Proclamation, since the days of the Jim Crow laws that created segregation, since the passing of the 13th and the 14th and the 15th amendments to our constitution, it appears as though we have evolved from the days of racial discrimination.
But as Derrick Bell, author of Faces at the Bottom of the Well, points out, "Our laws have changed, but the sentiment of hatred and misunderstanding is still in the hearts of many." When we look at the faces of the CEOs of corporate America, at the justices of the courts, at the astronauts, at the presidents of these United States, we see that faces of color and women are frightfully underrepresented. Racial disparities from top executives to the unemployed reflect the presence of the complacent attitude that allows us to settle for less than we started out towards and prevents us from the equality for which we dream.
Improvements in representation need to start with our educational system. The dropout rate of American high school students, especially among minorities, is alarming. The 2000 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that while approximately 92% of all white students complete high school, only 84% of African-Americans will graduate. And the completion rate for Hispanics is a shocking 64%. Trends show that this gap is not closing.
At the same time, those students who do graduate from high school, only 1/3 of those minority students will go on to college. And among those, only about 50% will make it through. Let's look at MIT's record. MIT has been very successful in attracting and maintaining a higher percentage of minority undergraduate students. From 1980, it had only about 7%, but today, it makes up about 18% of the population. However, the rate of graduate students and faculty has continued at a mere 3%.
The disparities in these statistics are part of the nightmare of reality. And to those who do succeed in college, many minorities and international students feel the pressures of not only having to succeed for ourselves but for also the people who we represent. If we fail, we fail all those who will come after us. Minorities in America are the faces at the bottom of society's well. African-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics are underrepresented and underpaid in virtually all professions. Society system is such that the odds are completely against us, yet red flags are being raised against affirmative action in programs such as MITES and Project Interphase to keep us down even longer.
The moment that a minority person rises to the top of the well, the people at the top let go of the rope and call us under-qualified--
--too conservative, or too liberal. What they really mean is we are not white enough. And sometimes, to those in our own communities, we are not Hispanic enough or black enough. Why do we keep holding ourselves down at the bottom of the well, instead of helping each other to climb out? Look around you. The faces at the bottom of the well are no different from you or me or anyone else in this room. Ask yourselves how you beat the odds and made it to and through MIT. And when you leave this place, will you return to the communities that you left behind?
Like Dr. King, will we face the challenge and return to the south, or will we forget that we, too, were once faces at the bottom of the well? Dr. King is one of the most visionary and fearless men of his time and of times to come. It was with his courage to return to the south and be an instrument of hope and earth-moving change that he was able to carry forward the strides toward civil rights, economic equality, and social justice for all.
But he could not have done it alone. Dr. King used his God-given talents to unite people of all colors, all religions. He didn't say, it's not my problem. But he dared to put his dreams into action. He embraced the challenge, and he sent down his bucket to the bottom of the well time and time again. Dr. King's dream lives on and will continue to come true as long as we make Dr. King's dreams of freedom, justice, and equality our own dreams. As long as we continue, as he did, to help pull up those faces at the bottom of the well. Thank you.
PRESENTER 1: Thank you, Kateri. We will now hear from Ayanna Samuels. Ayanna?
SAMUELS: Thank you, Michelle. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
SAMUELS: I must thank all involved in giving me the opportunity to speak this morning. A personal thank you to Professor Bond, Dr. Martin Luther King, and all of the others who fought and died for the civil rights and opportunities that I now enjoy as a black person from another country, Jamaica.
The very last issue that Dr. King tackled before his death was that of poverty. He rightly stated in 1967 that the vast majority of Negro brothers are smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society. Sadly, 36 years later, due progress has not been observed, thus rightly giving birth to today's theme. What is a nightmare of today's reality, you might ask? Debilitating and grinding poverty that afflicts people of all races, colors, and nationalities and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
If one were to take the time to peer down at the faces at the bottom of the well, you would find that poverty is neither racist nor sexist nor nationalistic. Derrick Bell's book, based on today's theme, informs us that the US income earners in the top fifth earn more than their counterparts in the bottom four fifths combined. It would be remiss of me not to mention that there are disproportionate amounts of minorities in the lowest one fifth, who are burdened with lifelong poverty and soul-devastating despair.
The permanence of this situation is largely due to the fact that attitudes and public policies associated with slavery have failed to fade away. That is the grim reality. To borrow from the late Bob Marley, it is a sort of mental slavery that keeps us at the bottom of the well and will detain us there, unless we begin to realize that we all have to swim together or sink together. Unemployment, inaccessible health care, immigration policies, inadequate housing, inequal access to quality education, and excess mortality of minorities due to AIDS speaks to the tragedy of our times.
In addition, there are astronomically high rates of incarceration of minority men. A study recently completed by the Justice Policy Institute reported that there were nearly 200,000 more black men in prison than in college. Among the ages 18 to 24, there are only 2.6 times as many black men in college as in prison. The number on death row is equally as astounding. For their white male counterparts, there are 28 times as many in college as in prison.
These statistics sum up to an incredible waste of human and economic resources, which over time depletes the social and family structure and ultimately results in a lack of belief of the validity of one's existence. Suffice it to say that it is not only the faces at the bottom of the well that are disallowed from achieving their full potential. No matter one's credentials, nor how much those that came before you may have sacrificed to afford you a good education, proper health care, and a sound belief in your ability, research has shown that the American populace still has a hard time looking beyond the color of one's skin.
In an MIT and University of Chicago research project, 5,000 resumes were sent to 1,250 recruiting companies. In many instances, identically very able and qualified applicants applied for the same job, with the only difference being in their having either black- or white-sounding names. The results were alarming. Resumes with a white name had a 50% higher response rate than their black counterparts. What does this mean? The nightmare of reality is that lynching has moved from our great grandparents' front yards to the corporate boardroom.
Then there is the issue of affirmative action. Dr. King must be turning in his grave to see our leaders misusing his ideals to oppose the inherent goals of affirmative action. Unfortunately, the term has long suffered from definitional drift. Affirmative action exists to address centuries of past discrimination and the effects of present discrimination based on race, gender, disabilities, age, and religious affiliation. As President Clinton once said, "The answer is not to end it but to mend it."
The real issue is in the details of implementation. The methods of implementation must be examined to ensure that they are not just mechanic percentages but that they adhere to legal and ethical standards. It is imperative that in tandem with such efforts, we seek to mend America's educational system from the K to 12 level. Disparities in resources and opportunities along race and class lines must be mitigated with urgency.
Regarding diversity, simply stated, it is a must. As Dean of Admissions, Marilee Jones, said recently, "Engineers need to come from everywhere to solve the problems of people everywhere." Were Dr. King here today, with respect to the issue of the war in Iraq, being such a vehement supporter of non-violent confrontation, I think you would agree with the UN that any action taken should be the result of proper investigation and consensus. It is interesting to note that in preparation for war, minorities and the poor are overwhelmingly represented and gave their lives in the Vietnam War much more than non-minorities.
Throughout all these atrocities, one tenant remains true-- simply time and the generosity of people will not solve our race, class, and economic problems. In order to turn today's nightmare into Dr. King's dream, we need to cease from turning a blind eye to the wails of the economically deprived at the bottom of the well. As Dr. King once said, "The curse of poverty has no justification in our age and must be hastily relinquished."
A major inhabitant to social progress is that the downtrodden among us, irrespective of race, class, or creed, refuse to realize the necessity of each other's existence in the quest to make it out of the well. Some even gain their self-esteem by peering down at those at the bottom of the well. Dr. King was a firm believer in the fact that human progress never rolls in at the wheels of inevitability. It is only when whites and all minority groups work in coalition that we can truly effect change, escape from the well, and rise from the dark depths of racism and prejudice to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
However, there must be the knowledge that this will be fiercely opposed by the status quo. Recently, the Census Bureau indicated that there are now more Hispanics than blacks in America. Instead of celebrating an increase in diversity, the sentiment of the media has been that the African-American population should be concerned that Hispanics could now possibly replace them in societal concerns. This is in a not-so-subtle attempt to pit both groups against each other. Nothing could be more tragic than for us to return to such ideals at this time. We must instead think about how we can collectively assist each other in bettering the social fabric of America.
Dr. King had the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere should have three meals a day for their body, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. Unfortunately, he was assassinated before he could see his dream realized. As such, his tombstone reads, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I am free at last."
Thus, I implore you, let not Dr. King's dreams of significance dwindle to a mere symbol to add other uncashed checks handed down to those that suffer. Let not another face at the bottom of the well have to drown in their own despair before they can finally see that they are free at last. Let us prove that you can assassinate the messenger, but you can not assassinate the dream.
Remember, human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Did you hear me? Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Once more. Human progress never rolls in, and will never roll in, on wheels of inevitability. Thank you.
PRESENTER 1: Thank you, Ayanna. Once again, I would like to thank both Kateri Garcia and Ayanna Samuels for their wonderful remarks and letting the words of Dr. King be heard once more.
I hope that everyone here today has really had a chance to listen carefully. Now I have the honor of introducing Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, who present the 2002, 2003 MLK Leadership Awards. Chancellor Clay?
CLAY: It's always a speaker's nightmare to follow such eloquence.
I'm delighted that I only have one sentence to give, and I'll try to do it well. For the issues dear to us and for our world, this is a period of maximum challenge, but I have the pleasant task of leading us into recognizing and celebrating the champions among us. That's my speech.
Would Professor Jonathan King please come forward?
Jonathan, your colleagues cited your long history of advocacy for democratic direction of science and technology. You are deeply respected as a scientist and as a teacher who possesses a clear and insistent voice, one often raised against the growing trends to alienate and privatize information that should be the legacy of humankind. Your enduring commitment to promoting greater public awareness of crucial scientific issues has given the average citizen a clearer understanding of matters concerned with stem cell research, bio privacy, and genetically modified foods.
As a scholar and mentor in this community, you have inspired countless students and colleagues to look closely at the implications of their own work. You have generously shared your knowledge and insight with others by organizing Massachusetts parents to improve public school systems and by serving as a Linus Pauling lecturer at Clark University, a historically black institution in Atlanta. Because of your dedication to creating better standards of living for all human beings, the MLK Committee firmly believes that you are working to sustain Dr. King's dream. With that, I am delighted to present you with this Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award.
KING: Thank you.
CLAY: Thank you.
I also want to acknowledge the presence of Mrs. King and their two sons and thank them for sharing Jonathan with us.
KING: Well I want to thank the Committee for this award and all of those among you who wrote letters of support. I want to credit the people in my research lab who have always been supportive and never complained, at least to me, about time spent on issues outside the research lab. There have been many graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, undergraduates, but particularly, I want to note my long-time associates, [INAUDIBLE] and Cindy Woolley.
Through the years at MIT, colleagues Mel King, Steve [INAUDIBLE], Scott Paradise, Vera [INAUDIBLE], Willie Johnson, Leon Trilling, many others, some no longer with us, were allies to many on-campus and off-campus struggles that were a very important resource. Jackie D. King, my wife, has been at my side since I've been at MIT. I don't want to say that I've been at MIT for 33 years, and she's been at my side, through thick and thin, through all that time. And our sons, Andrew and Aaron, have been good comrades along the way and kind of sensitized me to the struggles of young people. Family friends, Larry and Anna Ward, are here, and others in Cambridge have been on our side in struggles in Cambridge.
Now, when I was growing up, in high school and college and graduate school, images of Martin Luther King walking and marching dominated the life outside the classes. But there's a particular component of his leadership that I would call forward today. When during the escalation of the war in Vietnam, he stepped forward and told the nation that we couldn't be fighting for justice at home while prosecuting an unjust war against the Vietnamese people.
And he stated so clearly that the bombs that are dropped abroad also take their toll at home. And in this period when a reckless administration puts all of us at risk, we need to follow his leadership and resist an unjust and uncalled-for war once again, and I hope [INAUDIBLE].
CLAY: Would Hector Hernandez come forward?
The nominators in your case cited your promising research and biotechnology and your exceptional ability to motivate young scholars majoring in science. As a teaching assistant in a biochemistry course for undergraduates and for graduate students, you took on the challenging task of teaching an assignment in a department in an emerging field. You demonstrated a strong commitment to undergraduate research by training five students from diverse backgrounds.
A young woman who worked under your supervision for a summer was inspired to apply to MIT and is now completing her first year of graduate studies here. Because of your superb range of talents and your solid contributions to the community, you have been given many citations, and your peers have elected you as chair elect of the Chemistry Students Graduate Council. The MLK Committee believes that your leadership and your service to others embody the essence of Dr. King's ideals.
HERNANDEZ: Wow. This is really pretty. I was kind of really taken aback when I heard that I had won this award. It was nothing that I have ever dreamed of, because you always see other people doing so much other work and stuff, so I'm really honored. I want to thank the Committee for giving me this honor to be here today. I want to thank my professor, Professor Cathy Drennan, for really turning her cheek and turning her eye when I'm out of the lab a lot, doing a lot of things other than research in chemistry.
I want to thank Susan Brighton. She's standing over there in the corner or sitting down. She's like the mother hen in the chemistry department, taking care of the students and giving us a guiding voice and an ear when we have to go deal with some things. I want to thank Professor John Esserman for all the support that he's provided me. I want to thank the chemistry department for really taking a step forward in this past couple of years with the issues of minorities and underrepresented minorities in the sciences, particularly in chemistry. They implemented some really, really good programs that have allowed people to come work in the department during the summers.
Again, I want to thank the selection committee. It's been an honor. And they told me to keep it short, so I'll say a couple more words and that's it. Oh, I want to thank my mother. Oh, Jesus.
They're all written down, trust me. My mom is an incredible woman. I'm sure that everybody who's ever been a good leader can say that they can't do it without their parents or their mother, and so she's very happy for me and she's sorry that she couldn't be here. Fear is a very strong motivating factor, particularly in this day and age when we're facing fear of war, fear of foreign people in our land, and fear of getting up the next day and not knowing what's going to happen out among the worlds among us.
One of the things that I can say is that fear is something that people try to use to keep us down, and we need to get over that. We need to have strength. We need to come out. It's hard to do that sometimes because everything you see on TV from our leaders and from our peers even in our departments kind of make us feel like we are not the norm. We are people who have yet to be accepted in our fields. Sometimes we feel that we're here because we're just a number and somebody's trying to fill a gap because it looks bad.
I can assure you that, at MIT, that is not the case. I have been accepted here and people really do care. The Minorities Scholar Program here is very, very good. All I want to say is that we need to support programs like MITES. We need to support professors like Cathy Drennan, professors like Jonathan King, professors like John Esserman, and countless others that I have no idea who they are but I know work behind the scenes. And I hope the school really takes us to heart and really keeps these programs going for us. Thank you very much.
CLAY: Would Ms. Chiquita White please come forward?
Your alumni colleagues have cited your committed and long-standing interest in developing students as candidates for careers in industry. As Procter and Gamble's head recruiter for MIT and school team leader in your company, you have tirelessly helped young people to prepare for professional employment by closely interacting with students and Office of Minority Education and Second Summer Program. Your counsel has motivated many to seek meaningful paths, which without your efforts might have been overlooked.
Your work as a fundraiser for the class of 1985 and your memberships on the Boards of BAMIT and the Alumni Association have distinguished you as one who firmly believes in giving back to the community. The MLK Committee greatly recognizes your desire to improve the lives of our students and alumni as a significant part of Dr. King's cherished vision for institutions like MIT. And I want to also welcome your parents who are here and acknowledge that your sister is an alumna, and so we have the opportunity to honor an MIT family. Congratulations.
WHITE: That's a very nice Valentine's Day gift from an Institute that I love, so thank you. I'm honored and humbled to be selected for such a prestigious award. My nomination was a complete surprise to me, and I truly appreciate being recognized for something I simply enjoy doing-- coming to campus, meeting students, and talking about a job that I love. I want to thank the MLK committee and the OME for selecting me as a recipient, and I also want to thank my parents, as I told the Committee last night. My parents instilled in me at a young age the value of giving back to your community.
Recently, I read-- I think it was in Essence on one of my plane flights back and forth, that when you have a mission of service, that brings a balance to your life. And that resonated with me and I believe that because the service part of my life is a thing that gives me great joy. I hope that as I continue to live my life that I will continue to give back to others and be an inspiration to others so that they can do the same thing. So thank you very much for this award.
PRESENTER 1: Thank you very much and congratulations to the recipients of this year's MLK Leadership Awards. I would like at this time to welcome back the MIT gospel choir.
CHOIR: (SINGING) I've got a home in the sky. I'm gonna tell this world goodbye. You see, I'm gonna fly away. And we're gonna be called up together to live with Jesus Christ forever. You see, I'm gonna fly away. And I will be free. Free one day. Hey. And I will be free. Free one day.
I've got a home in the sky. I'm gonna tell this world goodbye. You see, I'm gonna fly away. And we're gonna be called up together to live with Jesus Christ forever. You see, I'm gonna fly away. And I will be free. Free one day. Hey. And I will be free. Free one day.
I've got a home in the sky. I'm gonna tell this world goodbye. You see, I'm gonna fly away. We will be called up together to live with Jesus Christ forever. You see, I'm gonna fly away. I will be free. I will be free. Free one day. Hey. I will be free. I will be free. Free one day.
I've got a home in the sky. I'm gonna tell this world goodbye. You see, I'm gonna fly away. We will be called up together to live with Jesus Christ forever. You see, I'm gonna fly away. I will be free. I will be free. Free one day. One day. Hey. I will be free. I will be free. Free one day. One day.
One glad morning. One glad morning. When this life is over. When this life is over. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'm gonna fly away. I'll fly away. One glad morning. One glad morning. One glad morning when this life is over. When this life is over. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'm gonna fly away. I'll fly away.
One glad morning. One glad morning. When this life is over. When this life is over. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'm gonna fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away.
No more dying. I'll fly away. No more crying. I'll fly away. No more sickness. I'll fly away. And no more sorrow. I'll fly away. And no more sadness. I'll fly away. And no more crying. I'll fly away. There will be joy. I'll fly away. There will be joy. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. Let there be peace. I'll fly away. Let there be love. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away. I'll fly away.
I will be free. And I will be free. Free. One day. One day. Hey. I will be free. And I will be free one day. One day. I will be free. I will be free. Free one day.
PRESENTER 1: Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce the 15th president of MIT, President Charles M. Vest. President Vest-- sorry. President Vest will give them remarks, and proceed to produce our keynote speaker, Mr. Julian Bond. President Vest?
VEST: This may be the coldest day of the year outside, but I think it's the warmest day of the year in here. And you all know it's Valentine's Day, and you've probably heard that Monday is Presidents Day, but what you may not know is Monday is Michelle's birthday.
Happy birthday. Thank you all for joining us in this annual MIT tradition. It's always one of the highlights of the year.
And we're delighted to have with us this morning so many distinguished representatives, not just of MIT itself, but of the greater Cambridge community. And in particular, I want to recognize the presence of Director of Economic Development, Estella Johnson, representing the city of Cambridge. And we are also joined by the presidents of the Boston and Cambridge chapters of the NAACP, Leonard Alkins and Kathy Reddick. Thank you very much for being with us.
As we gather on this morning in February, 2003, to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, there are many things I would like to talk about. But one topic is of such timeliness and importance to this institution and to the values of American higher education as I see them that I shall limit my remarks to addressing it. Recently, I asked a friend of mine who had attended the World Economic Forum in Davos what his reaction had been to Secretary Powell's well-publicized speech.
Here is his answer. He said, "whether I agree or disagree with his arguments regarding Iraq, I am really proud that Colin Powell is our Secretary of State." And as each of us watched as the heartbreaking tragedy of the space shuttle Columbia played out, I suspect we had a common reaction. This group of astronauts looks an awful lot like the students in the hallways of MIT, increasingly looks like America in 2003.
For us, the tragedy was compounded, because seeing their images was like looking in a mirror with pride. Now, how did Colin Powell become Secretary of State? And how did Michael Anderson, or Kalpana Chawla, or Laurel Clark come to be Voyagers in space? They achieved their goal by talent, determination, and drive, the same way that Rick Husband, or Pete McCool, or David Brown did it. They achieved their goals the same way that MIT alumnus and earlier Secretary of State George Shultz did it, the same way that Buzz Aldrin, Ron McNair, Ken Cameron, Franklin Chang-Diaz, Janice Voss, Cady Coleman, or any of the other 31 astronauts who are MIT graduates did it.
But all of these wonderful people, the pride of our nation, had the opportunity to develop their talent and to translate their determination and drive into accomplishment. In America, education is our primary vehicle of opportunity, opportunity to develop human talent, to bring coherence to drive, and to convert determination into accomplishment. It was not long ago that access to America's opportunity, and particularly, access to our great system of public and private universities would not have been readily available to Colin Powell, or Michael Anderson, or Kalpana Chawla, or Laurel Clark. Today, it is. But will it be tomorrow?
The answer to that question lies at the heart of a landmark legal battle that will be settled within a few months by the Supreme Court of the United States. Bankrolled and spurred on by two so-called watchdog groups, a lawsuit has been brought against the University of Michigan regarding its policies and processes for admitting students to its law school and to its undergraduate College of Literature, Science, and Arts. The goal of that suit now before the Supreme Court is to remove from colleges and universities their freedom to consider race as one of many factors when admitting students.
On the thread of that seemingly simple phrase, "race as one of many factors," hangs the fate of opportunity for many future American citizens of color. On the thread of that seemingly simple phrase, "race as one of many factors," hangs the ability of MIT to explicitly pursue the goal declared in our mission statement that says, "MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community."
On the thread of that seemingly simple phrase, "race as one of many factors," hangs the freedom of faculties of American universities to apply standards and principles of their choosing to the most basic of academic decisions, the decision of who shall study in their universities. That thread, that seemingly simple phrase, "race as one of many factors," was spun by Justice Powell when he wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court in the 1978 case Regents of the University of California versus Bakke. In the next few months, the Rehnquist court must decide whether that thread will remain whole, or whether with one snip of the judicial scissors, they will sever it, and let educational opportunity for many students of color crash back to the floor, the floor from which it has been raised with such effort over so many decades. Friends, we must preserve the legal right and moral authority to consider race as one of many factors in college and university admissions, and in other programs and dimensions of our life and learning.
Why do I care? I care because of what I have experienced and learned in a lifetime as a student and educator. And I care because MIT must be a leader and a moral force. I care because when I look out this morning at the members of the MIT community who are gathered here, I know where we are, and I know how we got here.
When I began my career as a graduate student teaching fellow, and then as a young assistant professor at the University of Michigan in the 1960s, it was extraordinary if I had more than one African-American student in my class every couple of years. In fact, it was extraordinary If I had more than one or two women's students in a class. And if I had either, it was a lead pipe cinch that they would be one of the best two or three students in the class, because only through extraordinary drive and commitment would these students have come to study engineering.
In that context, when I look around MIT at its student body today, whose undergraduates are 42% women, are 6% African-American, 11% Hispanic-American, and even 2% Native American, a student body that is remarkably diverse in so many other dimensions as well, it sometimes seems to me that a miracle has happened. But that is just the point. It is not a miracle. It is not a natural occurrence.
It is the result of determined, conscientious effort over more than three decades, often against seemingly insurmountable odds. It is the result of institutional leadership and occasional courage. It is the result of the determination of innumerable families and communities.
The goal was as simple as it was profound, to give every young person the opportunity to succeed. I can only conclude that despite the length of the journey, our nation is in a better place than it was three decades ago. But my own journey and experience is not one of just watching numbers slowly move in the right direction. It is one of direct and meaningful personal benefit from diversity.
I grew up in West Virginia, a border state. Not quite of the south, but not quite the north either. I attended racially segregated schools until I was in junior high school. Our schools were desegregated in one fell swoop a year or so ahead of Brown versus Board of Education. I came quickly to value and learn from the new classmates who joined us.
I remember when our high school football coach drilled us on how to protect our black teammates should they be attacked in some of the more rural towns in which we were to play. My first science teacher, who was a big inspiration, was black. My high school physics teacher was a woman. My closest friend in graduate school was from India. My PhD thesis advisor was from Turkey.
My closest colleagues as a young professor were from Taiwan, and Hungary, and Turkey, as well as from America. My own father grew up in a household in which German was spoken. I know that I am richer, that my world view is more balanced, and that my ability to do my job and live my life have been greatly enhanced by these and so many more personal experiences that we could file under the heading of diversity.
Most of these things, I suspect, seem to the students with us today like the air you breathe or the water you drink. What's the big deal, you might ask. Well, it is a big deal because it hasn't always been that way. It got that way, as I said, because of determined, conscientious effort over more than three decades, often against seemingly insurmountable odds.
But race still matters in America. There are still forces that drive racial isolation. We haven't reached the day when we truly have a race-blind society. We hope we will, but we haven't. And we must not put our head in the sand, declare victory, and let 30 years of progress slide through our fingers.
Experience in California and elsewhere shows that when race is removed as an explicit factor among many in admissions decisions, minority opportunity in the most competitive institutions suffers. That is why I care about preserving the rights of colleges and universities to consider race as one of many factors in admissions, and in our ethos. Why do I care?
I care because MIT, for decades, has been the leader in building the diversity of our own community, and of the engineering and science workforce and leadership of America. And it is not going to lose that edge on my watch. MIT has historically been a leader. Thank you.
Thank you. More broadly-- more broadly across US universities, interestingly, it was engineering schools that tended to lead the way. In the early 1970s, we established outreach programs, like MITES, to attract young Hispanic-American, African-American, and Native American high school students to the engineering profession, a career that tended not to benefit from a high degree of awareness in their communities.
I don't believe that we saw this task as one of political orientation or ideology. We saw it as an important duty to our nation. We saw it as a problem to be solved, a design to be improved. And it flowed naturally from our connection to industry. And American industry provided, and today, continues to provide most of the financial support and summer experiences that make such programs work.
In supporting these programs and our admission policies, corporations have not done so because they are liberal or conservative, Democrats or Republicans. They support them because they understand that our world is racially diverse. And if they are to understand their customers, produce well-designed relevant products, and market them effectively, they need the perspectives and experiences of a workforce and leadership that is diverse.
But we must also contend with today's legal landscape, the law of the land. During the last several months, we at MIT have learned this the hard way. A complaint filed against us led to a review of two MIT pre-college summer programs by the US department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
The two highly valued programs, as you well know, MITES, the Minority Introduction to Engineering Entrepreneurship and Science and Interphase. MITES is an outreach program that provides intense education and career experience for high school juniors interested in science, mathematics, and engineering. Interphase is a bridge program for incoming MIT freshmen.
We at MIT are very proud of the decades of accomplishment of these two programs. They have served hundreds, indeed, thousands of promising young men and women very well. We pledge to you that they will continue to serve promising minority students in the future.
But our rigorous examination and the best advice of literally every legal expert we sought out was unequivocal, and led us to conclude that we should not continue to limit participation in these programs only to underrepresented minority students. Therefore, we will broaden the selection criteria to include other students whose backgrounds may otherwise stand in the way of their studying science and engineering. But as we do so, we will find ways to continue to meet our underlying goal of fostering the education and opportunities of as many bright underrepresented minority students as possible.
This is MIT, after all, and I am confident that with the help of our faculty and students, we will continue to exercise leadership and build programs that will do just that. And we will be as proud of these programs in the future as we are today. Much has been written about the value of diversity of the education of all students on American campuses. Its value is well documented by serious social science, as well as by the more anecdotal experiential testimony of students and graduates.
But most such studies have tended to focus on the liberal arts and on the professions of law and medicine. But what do we think here at MIT, with our pervasive environment of science and engineering? We know statistically exactly what our students and graduates think. Our surveys find that almost 70% of the MIT class of 2002 believed that relating well to people of different races, cultures, and religions is either very important or essential. Less than 5% considered it not to be important.
Furthermore, 53% of the class of 2002 felt that their ability to relate well to people of different races, cultures, and religions was stronger or much stronger when they graduated than when they arrived at MIT as freshmen. Less than 2% felt weaker in this regard than when they arrived. Does this mean that all students at MIT hold the same beliefs about affirmative action and race conscious policies and admissions and so forth?
Of course not. Our community has a wide range of views, and I would have it no other way. But the data show clearly that we have an extremely strong consensus on the goal and value of diversity.
How do we achieve that goal? Schools like MIT or Stanford University first establish which of their applicants cross a very high bar of quality based on measures such as grades, test scores, and class rank, regardless of race or any other characteristic. Then we make the difficult subjective choices from among those applicants who have crossed that high bar of academic quality by assessing, as best we can, the whole person. Race is one of many factors considered at this stage in order to build an understanding of who each person is and the context in which they have demonstrated accomplishment, creativity, and drive.
Now, imagine, if you will, that it was your job to work on admitting the MIT class of 2008. You're preparing to read and evaluate the folders of thousands of applicants. What's your task? You have the task of selecting only about 15% from a pool of young men and women who virtually all, as I said, have outstanding test scores and grades and the usual metrics.
So to focus your thinking about selecting the class from among these outstanding applicants, you take many slips of paper, and on each one, you write a characteristic of the class that you think is important, and then you array them on the table in front of you. The slips have listed characteristics such as grades, class rank, standardized test scores, geography, gender, economic status, creativity, race, leadership, nationality, risk-taking, musical talent, life experiences, cultural background, type of high school, special skills, quality of admissions essay, ability to work in teams, evaluations by teachers and counselors, reports of our own alumni educational counselors, and so forth. But suddenly, the arm of the federal government reaches in, grabs that one slip on which race is written, slaps you on the wrist and sternly says, you can consider all those other factors, but you can't take race into account.
How can you not consider race? It is an integral part of the individual identity of each applicant, and it helps us to understand the context of their accomplishment and their goals. That is the world that we will enter if the Bakke decision is overturned this spring.
In such a world, we will dramatically slow our journey to create a nation that is full-- that is fair and full of justice for all. It would be a world in which higher education cannot contribute maximally to developing our nation's workforce, its scholars, or the leaders of the next generation across the full sweep of our society. Next week, MIT will enter a brief as a friend of the court in order to help persuade the justices of the Supreme Court that for the good of America, our colleges and universities must retain the freedom to consider race as one of many factors when admitting students.
You see, that is what MIT can do. That is how MIT can state, we are present and accounted for. That is how we can and will put our oar in the water.
Our brief will make four primary points, first, the interests of colleges and universities, including those with strong focus on science and engineering, in achieving diversity of our student bodies and academic communities is compelling in many respects. Second, we must retain our freedom to consider race as one of many factors when admitting students in order to achieve this diversity. Third, this is true for both private and public institutions. And fourth, a diverse workforce and future leadership in science and engineering will be essential to our country's economic strength.
Will our brief have an impact? Is it an important statement? I think so. Indeed, last week, the CEO and the leadership team of one of America's largest and best known corporations sat in a room discussing the importance of the University of Michigan case.
One of the groups said, no matter which way this case is decided by the Supreme Court, in the future, people are going to look back at our company and they're going to ask, where were you? They then decided to take a public stance by joining the amicus brief drafted and organized by MIT. Indeed, our arguments will be greatly strengthened by the small, but extremely important group of amici who will join us by signing our brief. Joining us will be Stanford University, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, or NACME, Dupont, IBM, the National Academy of Science, and the National Academy of Engineering.
Two great universities, the largest national consortium for advancing engineering careers for minorities, two of the largest and best known technology-based companies in the world, and the two most prestigious academies of science and engineering will be standing together in a very highly public manner. When the question is asked, where were you, MIT's answer will be clear. Thank you very much.
It is a great privilege-- it is a great privilege to introduce this morning's distinguished guest speaker. He has been a leading light in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in America for more than four decades. Julian Bond's career as an activist began when he was still a student at Morehouse College, where one of his teachers was Dr. Martin Luther King.
The protest Julian Bond organized as an undergraduate played a pivotal role in desegregating movie theaters, lunch counters, and parks in Atlanta. He himself was arrested for sitting in the segregated-- for sitting in in the segregated cafeteria in Atlanta's City Hall. In 1960, he helped create the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and then proceeded to work on voter registration drives in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Mr. Bond was elected to the Georgia legislature in 1965, and again in 1966, but on both occasions, he was denied his seat because of his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. He finally took his seat after the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Georgia House had violated his rights. He went on to serve a total of 20 years in the Georgia House and Senate.
In 1968, he co-chaired a successful challenge delegation from Georgia to the Democratic Party's National Convention. He himself was nominated for vice president, but withdrew his name because he was too young to serve. In 1971, Mr. Bond became the founding president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Today, he serves as chair of the NAACP, and teaches at American University and at the University of Virginia. Many of you know Julian Bond from his thoughtful comments on America's black forum. Others among you will recognize his voice, for he narrated the extraordinary documentaries Eye on the Prize and A Time for Justice. Wherever and whenever he speaks, he seeks to tell America the truth about race relations. Please join me in welcoming Julian Bond.
BOND: Thank you, Dr. Vest for your kind introduction. And thank you particularly for your forthright statement and the action you announced today. It is a mark of great distinction for MIT that you are her president. Thank you a great, great deal for what MIT will do.
Ms. Samuels and Ms. Garcia and the other award recipients have given my speech. But I'm going to try to carry on. You heard Dr. Vest say a moment ago that I was a student of Martin Luther King's, and when I received this invitation, I thought surely that was the reason why, that people here at MIT knew about my close, personal, intimate relationship with the premier civil rights leader of the 20th century. And if you don't know about it, I'm going to tell you about it right now.
Dr. King taught one time in his life at Morehouse College, taught one class, six people in the class. I'm one of the six. So I'm one of six people in the whole universe who can honestly say, I was a student of Martin Luther King. Now, I wish I could tell you I took extensive notes in class, and I've kept those notes until today, but I didn't do that.
Or I wish I could tell you I'd had the wit to bring a tape recorder to class and I tape recorded these pearls of wisdom that fell from the lips of this marvelous man, but I didn't do that either. In fact, I remember nothing that passed between teacher and student in the class. But I do remember one day, class was over, he and I were walking across the beautiful, beautiful Morehouse College campus, and I turned to him and I said, Doc-- his friends called him Doc. I said, Doc, how you doing?
He said, Julian, I'm not doing well. Said unemployment is high, segregation seems immovable, racism is everywhere. I feel awful, he said. I have a nightmare. I said, no, Doc, turn that around. I have a dream and--
And we are here-- we are here today in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King. In April of 1954, he preached his first sermon as pastor of Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He was 25 years old. He could not have known that in nine years, he would be the most famous black American, speaking at the March on Washington to the largest gathering of civil rights supporters in American history. And he could not have known that in 14 years, he would be dead.
He lost his life supporting a garbage worker's strike in Memphis. The right to decent work at decent pay, of course, remains as basic to human freedom as the right to vote. Negroes, he said in 1961, are almost entirely a working people. There are pitifully few Negro millionaires, and few Negro employers.
Our needs are identical to laborer's needs, decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, respect in the community. That there are many, many more black millionaires today is a tribute to the movement King led. That there are proportionately fewer black people working today is an indictment of our times, and a reflection of our failure to keep the movement coming on.
Now, he's not the only soldier missing from the freedom fight. He was part of an army that numbered tens of thousands. While all valued his leadership, few waited for his direction before an attack on segregation began.
In countless southern towns, aggressive anti-segregation activity had a history that began in slavery time. Today, we wait for others to sanction our protests, others to lead us. Yesterday's movement was a people's movement.
It produced leaders of its own. It relied not on the noted, but the nameless, not on the famous, but the faceless. Those were the days when good music was popular, and popular music was good.
Those were the days when the president picked the Supreme Court and not the other way around. Those were the days--
Those were the days when we had a war on poverty and not a war on the poor. And those were the days when patriotism was a reason for open-eyed disobedience, not an excuse for blind allegiance. For too many--
For too many, the King holiday and the Black History Month celebrations that followed have become occasions for orgies of racial self-congratulation. We don't honor the man, we honor his imperfect memory. We don't honor the movement, instead, we honor the myth.
We ought to remember that we honor Dr. King's birthday, not his death day. We ought to imitate the well-lived life and not simply mourn the martyr's death. For most of us, he is little more than an image seen in grainy black and white television film, pictures taken in Washington 40 years ago, the gifted preacher who had a dream.
But King, of course, was much more than that, and the movement much more than Martin Luther King. He did more than tell the nation about his dream at the March on Washington. In the years before and after, he addressed the human condition, the larger world beyond America's shores. Racial justice, economic equality, world peace, these were the themes that occupied his life. They ought to occupy us today.
We meet as our nation is once again on the brink of war in the Persian Gulf, war without reason or rationale. When King spoke out against the war in Vietnam in 1965, he was revolted at the hypocrisy of America's claims for freedom overseas when blacks enjoyed few freedoms here. How ironic it was, he said, that black and white boys could die together in foxholes in Vietnam, and couldn't go to school together in Georgia, that widened war abroad stole from Americans here at home. How sadly true those words ring today.
We also meet in the aftermath of a terrible day in American life in history, the slaughter of almost 3,000 innocents. Those who died on September 11, were a diverse group, most Americans, but they died with people from more than 50 countries, from Chile through Zimbabwe. That's why they called it the World Trade Center.
Among the Americans were blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, as diverse in death as we are in life. A black doctor who volunteered to work at ground zero said, down there, it wasn't a matter of race, or creed, or political affiliation. It was just everyone pitching in. And we'd all talk about this being the way America should be.
Martin Luther King talked about that too, about his dream that one day his children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. He said that was a dream. And it sadly remains a dream today.
One of those who escaped from the World Trade Center said, if you'd seen what it was like in that stairway, you'd be proud. There was no gender, no race, no religion. It was everyone helping each other.
But away from that stairway back in America's streets, there is gender. There is race. There is religion. Since the attacks, people who look like Muslims or Arabs have been harassed, assaulted, and even killed.
On the Saturday following that terrible Tuesday, in Mesa, Arizona, a gunman shot to death the Sikh owner of a gas station, fired on a Lebanese clerk at work, and an Afghan family at home. When he was arrested, the suspect said, I'm a patriot. I'm a damn American all the way.
What he really is is a damn fool. We know America's Twin Towers, Freedom and Justice are standing still. It's our job to keep upright what others would weaken and destroy. America is strongest when she is just, and she is fiercest when her people are free.
Less than a week after the attacks, President George W Bush went to the Washington Islamic Center. Standing in his stocking feet, the president vowed to prevent hate crimes and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the wake of these attacks. He renewed this vow on the first anniversary of the attacks.
And so, our nation's two stated goals, retaliation against terrorists abroad, promotion of tolerance here at home, are reminiscent of the double V campaign waged by blacks during World War II. It symbolized victory against fascism abroad, victory against racism here at home. With the events of September 11, we realized we have not yet achieved either victory, not yet against tyranny abroad, not yet against racism here at home.
Just as this enemy, terrorism, is more difficult to identify and punish, so is discrimination a more elusive target today. No more do signs read white and colored. The law now requires the voter's booth and schoolhouse door to swing open for everyone. No longer are they close to those whose skins are dark.
But despite impressive increases in the number of black people holding public office, despite our ability to sit, eat, ride, vote, go to school in places that used to bar black faces, in some important ways, non-white Americans face problems more difficult to attack now than in all the years that went before. Senator Trent Lott uncovered a running sore almost 50 years old, that if allowed to fester, threatens to imperil our very democracy. It is the longtime dependence of the Republican Party on the politics of racial division to win elections and gain power.
By playing the race card in election after election, they've appealed to the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who have rejected democracy and equality. In coded racial appeal after appeal, they drape themselves in the Confederate flag, They embrace Confederate leaders as patriots, and they wallow in a victim mentality. They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division. They celebrate Martin Luther King and misuse his message.
Their idea of reparations is to give war criminal Jefferson Davis a pardon. Their idea of equal rights is the American and Confederate flags flying side by side. Their idea of compassion is to ask the guest at the Millionaire's Banquet if they want an extra helping or a second dessert.
And where are the Democrats? With some notable exceptions, they're absent without leave from this battle for America's soul. They too practice the politics of race avoidance, playing lip service to lifting all boats. But the truth is, that while a few sail on in luxury liners, most are crammed in the cargo hold. And for those in the deepest, darkest underbelly of the boat, it's leaking under our seats.
For many African-Americans, the 90s were more financial bust than boom. As the economic uncertainties and layoffs mount, the last hired become the first fired, joining unemployment rolls already populated by twice the percentages of blacks than whites. Income inequality, already greater here than in most industrial democracies, has grown wider.
The wealthiest 1% of American households now own more than 40% of all assets. The top 20% earn 13 times what the bottom 20% earn. And corporate CEOs now make 419 times the hourly wages of production workers. These imbalances not only mean difficult economic times for many, they also undermine democratic values. The danger is that plutocracy will prevail over democracy, that the free market will rule over the free citizen.
Civil rights forces warned that great harm would come from the foolish risky tax bill of 2001. It's become clear our warnings were absolutely right. It did not stimulate economic growth. It did not provide tax relief for most Americans.
In fact, it succeeded only in fulfilling the worst predictions of those who opposed it. It squandered a once in a lifetime budget surplus on an unwise tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy, and that continues to threaten Medicare and the Social Security trust funds. To make up for these tax cuts, we'd have to cut spending by $5 billion a year-- $5 billion five days a week for over a year.
After all, that was the whole point, to further enrich the already wealthy and to starve the government, making it unable to meet human needs. The quality of public education is declining. 40 million Americans have no health insurance. The proportion of poor children in America higher than in any developed nation. And now, they propose to make matters even worse.
This is what the country could do with the billions Bush wants to give the rich by eliminating dividend taxes. We could treat 3.6 million Americans living with HIV and AIDS. We could put 100,000 community police officers on America's streets.
We could fund almost every emergency room in America. We could underwrite a year's worth of school lunches for 43 million children. And we can provide one dinner 365 days a year for 50 million senior citizens. But we have a president who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged. We have an attorney general who is a cross between J Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell.
And we have a Senate majority leader who's voted consistently against labor rights, against civil rights, and against women's rights. And he's the one who replaced the bad guy. All too often, one political party is shameless, and the other is spineless. Only one senator--
Only one senator, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against the first hastily prepared and ill-considered terrorism measure proposed after September 11. Senator Feingold explained his vote this way. "If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search our home at any time for any reason, if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications, if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people indefinitely in jail based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live."
Nor do we want to live in a country that permits infiltration and surveillance of religious and political organizations, yet the new FBI guidelines proposed by J Edgar Ashcroft do just that. Just as we remember J Edgar Hoover, we remember his counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. And whose intelligence did they want to counter?
In a program called Racial Matters, the FBI tried to disrupt the civil rights movement. They tried to smear Martin Luther King. They not only wanted him discredited, they wanted him dead. They threatened him with the release of damaging information if he did not take his own life.
We thought we'd put a stop to Hoover's programs of spies and lies in the 1970s after these abuses were exposed. Now under the guise of fighting terrorism, the FBI is going back to spying on law-abiding citizens. War and fear often cause hasty mistakes, costly both in economic and in human terms. As the drums of war beat louder, we ought to remember what we're fighting for.
In the summer of 1918, on the eve of America's entry into World War I, one of the founders of the NAACP, Dr. W E B Dubois urged black Americans to forget our special grievances, close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and the Allied nations that are fighting for democracy. The criticism he faced then was immediate and loud. He quickly reversed his [INAUDIBLE], and realized then, as we must now, that calls for a retreat from our rights are always wrong.
He understood then, as we must now, that when wars are fought to save democracy, the first casualty is usually democracy itself. That's why we must be vigilant against the steady erosion of American values and the basic rights we hold dear. We ought to remember the words of Ohio Senator Robert Taft-- you know, I never thought I'd be quoting Robert Taft.
We ought to remember the words of Ohio Senator Robert Taft, who said two weeks after Pearl Harbor had been attacked, "I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government." And the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who said, "grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency." But we are seeing freedom shrink and fear expand. We're seeing patriotism contract rather than expand the American spirit.
The FBI and the CIA kept files on me in the 1960s. They may be keeping files on me today. But while they were watching and following and photographing and wiretapping those of us working nonviolently in the freedom movement, a wave of white terrorism was sweeping across the South without challenge. It has taken 40 years and more to bring a pitiful few of the terrorists of that period to justice. And it has taken 40 years and more to put in place a framework for civil rights enforcement, which is now threatened on several fronts.
The administration's judicial nominees are hostile to the basic principles of civil rights law and civil rights enforcement. They oppose the core constitutional principle of one person, one vote. They've supported federal funding for racially-discriminatory schools. They've tried to rewrite the anti-discrimination laws from the bench, and they've eroded congressional authority to pass laws that protect civil rights.
They promise to leave no child behind and defaulted on the promise. The 2004 budget does away with 45 programs for children, covering rural education, dropout prevention, physical education, and more. The attorney general has sought to undo the work of career lawyers in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Among those staffing the voting rights section is a lawyer who helped run the purge of Florida's voting rolls. Another is a former senior counsel for the misnamed Center for Equal Opportunity, founded to fight laws requiring racial justice in America.
Organizations dedicated to overturning the gains of the civil rights movement are now dictating public policy. They've struck here at MIT, and they won't rest until white preference is restored. The very names of these organizations, the Institute for Justice, the Campaign for a Colorblind America, the American Civil Rights Institute, are fraudulent, and their aims are frightening.
They've already stolen our vocabulary, and they want to steal the just spoils of our righteous war. Sophisticated and well-funded, over the past decade, they've won several victories in the plot to dismantle justice and fair play. For more than a decade, they've waged ideological war against moderation in the federal judiciary, and they complain the loudest when the extremists they support are rejected. They've ascended to unprecedented positions of power within the federal government.
There is a right wing conspiracy, and it's operating out of the United States Department of Justice, and the Office of White House Counsel, and the Office of Civil Rights, and the Department of Education, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights, where members of the Federalist Society now sit. They and others have set their gun sights not only on affirmative action, but also on Title IX, the 30-year-old law guaranteeing gender equity in higher education. But there is an even wider conspiracy than this, an interlocking network of funders, groups, and activists who coordinate their methods and their message.
They are the money, the motivation, and the movement behind school vouchers, behind the legal assaults on affirmative action, behind attempts to reapportion minorities out of office, and attacks on equity everywhere. They promote the politics of anxiety and resentment. They wallow in an imagined victimhood where everyone is against them.
Their enemies are legion, women and minorities who don't know their place, and expansive culture free from this oppression of the past, and an America growing more and more diverse every day. And they've had a small, but prominent collection of black hustlers and hucksters on their payrolls for more than 20 years. Rather than mount serious campaigns for the affections and the loyalties of black voters, they prop up bogus black substitutes and label them a new generation, assigning a generational conflict to black Americans which doesn't exist in any other group.
They can't deal with the leaders black people choose for ourselves, so they manufacture, promote, and hire new ones. Like ventriloquist dummies, they speak in their puppet masters voice. But we can see his lips move, and we can hear his money talk.
They financed a conservative constellation of make believe blackface front organizations, all of them hollow shells with more names on the letterhead than there are on the membership rolls. They're buying seats at the table of influence, and they're purchasing blacks at a few bucks a head. They want to make any government consideration of race illegal, and thereby do away with our rights and much of the legacy of the civil rights movement, including affirmative action.
Affirmative action was created to fight what Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called the unhappy persistence of both the practice and the lingering effects of racial discrimination. Affirmative action is under attack now not because it has failed, but because it has succeeded. It created the sizable middle class that now constitutes 1/3 of all black Americans.
In the late 1960s, the wages of black women in the textile industry tripled. From 1970 to 1990, the number of black police officers, lawyers, and doctors doubled. Black electricians and college students tripled.
Black bank tellers more than quadrupled. Affirmative action is the just spoils of a righteous war. The opponents keep telling us that it carries a stigma which attaches to all blacks, as if none of us ever felt any stigma before the words affirmative action were ever uttered.
Why don't they ever make this argument, about the millions of whites who got into Harvard or Yale because dad was an alumnus.
The president's family has enjoyed three generations of preferences, extra boosts given to the children of Yale alumni. Why don't they make this argument about those who got a good job because dad was president of the company, or president of the United States? You never see these people.
You never see these people walking around with their heads held low, moaning that everybody in the executive washroom is whispering about how they got their jobs. Most of our elite professions have long been the near exclusive province of white men. I seriously doubt if a single one of these men is suffering low self-esteem because he knows his race and gender helped him win his job.
As we all know, the Supreme Court is about to decide the legality of affirmative action in two cases from the University of Michigan. As quiet as it is by those who declare themselves colorblind in his name, Dr. King supported affirmative action. In 1963, he said, "it's impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstream of American life if we do not do something special for him now in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis."
President Bush chose Dr. King's birthday to announce that even though society continues to do something special against racial minorities, his administration will not do anything for them. He's supporting the opponents of Michigan's efforts to promote diversity among its student body. The president characterized Michigan's program as a quota, which it is not. His use of this charged word is an attempt to disguise his failure to support justice.
He complained that black and other minority candidates are given extra points toward admission, not because, the president said, of life experience. But solely because of race. But in this country, life experience is determined by race. They like to use--
They like to use secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as human shields against any criticism of their record on civil rights. After all-- after all, the president is proud of boasting, his administration is the most diverse in history, except the one that preceded it. But the day after the administration filed its brief in the Michigan case, Ms. Rice issued a rare statement on a domestic issue, saying, "it is appropriate to use race as one factor, among others, in achieving a diverse student body." And Ms. Rice has acknowledged that affirmative action was responsible for her employment at Stanford University.
Secretary Powell, for his part, has long been an outspoken advocate for affirmative action, and has specifically said he hopes the University of Michigan prevails in court. As the Michigan Law School dean wrote, "colorblindness is an ideal, not an idol. And the Constitution does not require us to sacrifice effective education and integration in its name."
Or as I put it, whether race is a burden or benefit is all the same to these theorists. That's what they mean when they speak of being colorblind. They are color blind, all right, blind to the consequences of being the wrong color in America today.
No group of Americans is more physically isolated from jobs than blacks. Black people seeking housing know these consequences too. More than one in five blacks trying to buy a home or rent an apartment face illegal discrimination. And black people who face disproportionate surveillance, arrest, and incarceration know these consequences too.
One in three black men carries the lifelong stigma of being a felon, thanks to this nation's racially disparate war on drugs. This discrimination has real and measurable cost. Or put another way, eliminating it would have measurable benefits. But for discrimination, black Americans would have two million more high school degrees, two million more college degrees, 700,000 more jobs, and 700,000 blacks would not be behind bars. Behind these numbers are names and numerous benefits for society at large.
We're such a young nation so recently removed from slavery that only my father's generation stands between Julian Bond and human bondage. Like many others, I'm the grandson of a slave. My grandfather was born in 1863 in Kentucky. Freedom didn't come for him until the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865.
He and his mother were property, like a horse or a chair. As a young girl, she'd been given away as a wedding present to a new bride. And when that bride became pregnant, her husband, that's my great grandmother's owner and master, exercised his right to take his wife's slave as his mistress. That union produced two children, one of them, my grandfather.
At age 15, barely able to read or write, he hitched his tuition, a steer, to a rope and walked 100 miles across Kentucky to Berea College, and the college let him in. 16 years later, he graduated, and the college asked him to deliver the commencement address. He said then, the pessimists from his corner looks out on the world of wickedness and sin, and blinded by all that is good and hopeful in the condition and the progress of the human race, bewails the present state of affairs and predicts woeful things for the future. In every cloud he holds a destructive storm, in every flash of lightning an omen of evil, and in every shadow that falls across his path a lurking foe. He forgets that the clouds also bring life and hope, that lightning purifies the atmosphere, that shadow and darkness prepare for sunshine and growth, and that hardships and adversity nerve the race, as the individual, for greater efforts and grander victories.
Greater efforts and grander victories, that was the promise made by the generation born in slavery more than 140 years ago. That was the promise made by the generation that won the great World War for democracy more than five decades ago. That was the promise made by those who brought democracy to America's darkest corners four decades ago, and the promise we must all seek to honor today.
The Civil War that freed my grandfather was fought over whether blacks and whites shared a common humanity. Less than 10 years after it ended, the nation chose sides with the losers, and agreed to continue black repression for almost 100 years. 246 years of slavery followed by 100 years of state sanctioned discrimination, reinforced by public and private terror, ended only after a protracted struggle in 1965.
Thus, it has only been a short 38 years that all black Americans have exercised the full rights of citizens. Only 38 years since legal segregation was ended nationwide. Only 38 years since the right to register and vote was universally guaranteed. Only 38 years since the protections of law and constitution were officially extended to all.
And now, some are telling us those 38 years have been enough. To believe that is the victory of hope over experience. To believe that is the victory of self-delusion over common sense.
The modern movement for civil rights has its immediate origins in the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v Board in 1954. That ruling effectively ended segregation's legality, but it also gave a nonviolent movement the license to challenge segregation's morality as well. A year after Brown, an NAACP activist in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat on a city bus so a white man could sit down. Five years after Montgomery, four young men, college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to give up their seats at a dime store lunch counter reserved for whites.
These small acts of passive resistance to American apartheid and the cumulative acts of tens of thousands more help create a people's movement that eliminated legal segregation in less than a decade. We ought not forget that King stood at the head of thousands, people who made the mighty movement what it was. From Jamestown slave pens to Montgomery's boycotted buses, these ordinary women and men labored in obscurity.
And from Montgomery forward, they provided the soldiers of the freedom army. They walked in dignity rather than ride in shame. They faced bombs in Birmingham and mobs in Mississippi. They sat down at lunch counters so others could stand up.
King didn't march from Selma to Montgomery by himself. He didn't speak to an empty field at the March on Washington. There were thousands marching with him and before him, and thousands more who did the dirty work that preceded the triumphant march.
Black Americans didn't march to freedom. We worked our way to civil rights through the difficult business of organizing, knocking on doors one by one, registering voters one by one, developing a community block by block, creating an effective organization town by town. But the removal over the decades of the 1960s of the more blatant forms of American apartheid have made it too easy for too many to believe today that all forms of discrimination have disappeared.
Opinion polls reveal that a majority of whites think racial discrimination is no longer a major impediment for people of color. In one study, 75% of whites said blacks face no discrimination in obtaining jobs or housing, even as such discrimination daily becomes more severe. Polls show most white Americans believe equal educational opportunity exists right now, even as our schools are becoming more, not less segregated across the country.
The successful strategies of the modern movement were litigation, organization, mobilization, and coalition, all aimed at creating a national constituency for civil rights. Today's times require no less, and in fact, insist on more. We now find ourselves refighting old battles we thought we'd already won, facing new problems we've barely begun to acknowledge.
But we ought to take heart. If there's more to be done, we have more to do it with, much more than those who came before and who brought us along as far. As a nation, we have more than a century's worth of aggressive self-help and voluntarism, in church, civic club, neighborhood association, providing scholarships helping the needy, financing the cause of social justice.
But volunteerism alone and social service alone do little to change the status quo. Creating change requires a critical analysis of power in society, and a commitment to both challenging and changing inequality. It's never enough just to ignore evil. It's never enough just to do good. It's never enough just to feed the hungry and house the homeless, as commendable as these acts are.
It may be helpful to think about our common task in this way. Two men are sitting by river, and to their horror, see a helpless baby come floating by. They jump in and save the child, and to their surprise, another child comes down the stream.
They jump in the water the second time and save the baby. And to their horror, a third baby comes down. One of the men jumps in the water a third time, and the other begins to run upstream. Come back, says the man in the water. We've got to save this child. You save it, says the running man, I'm going to find out who's throwing babies in the water, and I'm going to make him stop.
Now, I recently heard Professor Lani Guinier say that racial minorities are like the canaries that miners used to carry to warn them when the underground air was becoming too toxic to breathe. But too many people today want to put gas masks on the canaries instead of taking the poison out of the air. Too many want to put life preservers on the babies instead of stopping them from being thrown in a treacherous, dangerous flood.
We have a long and honorable tradition of social justice in this country. It still sends forth the message that when we act together, we can overcome. It is a serious mistake, both tactical and moral, to believe this is a fight that must or should be waged by black Americans alone. That has never been so in centuries past. It ought not be so in the century unfolding now.
A civil rights agenda for the new century must include continuing to litigate, to organize, to mobilize, forming coalitions of the caring and concerned, joining ranks against the comfortable, the callous, and the smug. We must demand fair treatment for people with HIV and AIDS, especially people of color. We have to ensure that our children in suburban integrated schools, in segregated schools in rural America or the inner city receive the best education, an education that prepares them for the century yet ahead.
None of this is easy work. But we've never wished our way to freedom. Instead, we've always worked our way.
By the year 2050, blacks and Hispanics together will be 40% of the nation's population. This growth in immigration and the emergence of new and vibrant populations of people of color holds out great promise and great peril. The promise is that the Coalition for Justice will grow larger and stronger as more and more allies join the fight. The peril comes from real fears that our common foes will find ways to separate and divide us.
It doesn't make sense if blacks and Latinos argue over which has the least amount of power. Together, we can constitute a mighty force for change. We know our lives and our world changed forever on September 11. We don't know yet by how much, but we know we have a job to do at home as much as abroad.
When I first started working four decades ago, there were five workers paying in the retirement system for every retiree. Of course, there's no way I could possibly know who my five were, but there's a good chance their names could have been Karl, Ralph, Bob, Steve, and Bill. When I retire, there are going to be three workers paying in to the retirement system for every retiree, and there's a good chance their names will be to Tamika, Maria, and Jose. And I'm here to tell you, you better make sure that Tamika, Maria, and Jose have the best schools, the best health care, the best jobs, and the strongest protections against discrimination they possibly can. Thank you.
PRESENTER: Everyone, please join me in thinking Mr. Bond for his insight and profound words.
Thank you so much. Chancellor Clay will now recognize the 2002-2003 Martin Luther King Jr. visiting professors. Chancellor Clay?
CLAY: Another tough assignment. Wonderful speech. MIT has been fortunate over the last decade to have in our midst visiting minority faculty who come to our community sometimes as former alumn, sometimes as neighbors from nearby, to provide an opportunity for us to interact and learn from them, and an opportunity for them to participate in our community. We are fortunate to have several of those faculty in our midst today.
So I will introduce them and ask them to stand at the end of the introduction. First, I want to welcome Professor Xavier de Souza Briggs, who's visiting the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from his position as a public policy professor at Harvard University. I want to welcome Professor Jonathan Farley, Professor of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University, who's visiting us from his visiting position as a distinguished Fulbright professor at Oxford University.
Professor [INAUDIBLE] is visiting with us from North Carolina A&T University. He's not here with us today because he, along with Professor Peters, who's visiting with us, they are both at a conference on physics in Atlanta. And we can excuse them if they bring back to us prospective faculty and graduate students.
We're also delighted to have visiting with us Professor [INAUDIBLE], who is visiting our Department of Material Science and Engineering, visiting with us from University of Delaware. Professor Peters, who I mentioned earlier, is a graduate of MIT, and is visiting with us from Duke University. And I want to ask them to stand in a moment, but there are a couple of other people who are visiting scholars.
Professor Otis Jennings is visiting the Sloan School of Management. He's visiting from Georgia Tech. And Professor Mark Lloyd, who is an attorney, a lawyer, a, journalist is visiting the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. So let me ask all of them to stand, and I want to thank them for being a part of our community this year and welcome them and introduce them to you. Thank you.
PRESENTER: We will now have the MIT gospel choir lead us in singing Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. We ask that you stand and please join in song.
[MUSIC - "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING]
CHOIR: (SINGING) Lift every voice and sing, till heaven and Earth ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the list'ning skies, 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 of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast'ning rod felt in the day that hope unborn had died. Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet come to a place on which our fathers sight. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our 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 cast. God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far on the way, thou who has by thy might let us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath the hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.
PRESENTER: Thank you for that outstanding rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing. Now we'll ask Reverend Johanna Kiefner to come forward to give the benediction to close this morning's program. Reverend Kiefner?
KIEFNER: Send us to be a people generous with our abundance, send us to restore one another with compassion, send us with vision that we may see inequality and injustice with an unclouded eye, send us with the power to work for justice, send us with courageous hearts to be peacemakers. And may you bring all this wonderful and hurting world into its blessed fullness. May we live to see that great and glorious day. Amen.
PRESENTER: I hope you've enjoyed this morning's program. It's been a wonderful event, which I'm sure will remain in our thoughts for a long time. Thank you all for coming, and we hope to see you next year. This concludes our 29th Annual Martin Luther King Junior Celebration. Have a wonderful day.