30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration - Julianne Malveaux, “Rhetoric or Reality: Civil Rights Under Siege”
PRESENTER: I would like to take this moment to thank President Charles Vest and his wife, Mrs. Rebecca Vest, for hosting this event. I would also like to welcome MIT alum Dr. Julianne Malveaux, class of '80. It is a pleasure to have you here this morning. Furthermore, I would like to thank all the members of the Martin Luther King, Jr. planning committee to whom we owe this wonderful morning. When I call your names, please stand up.
Professor Jerome Friedman. Professor Richard Milner. Reverend John Westnick. Assistant Professor Catherine Drennan. Assistant Professor Larry Anderson.
Associate Dean Arnold Henderson, Jr. Assistant Director Deborah Lieberman. Professor John [? Demonshaw. ?] Associate Director Robert Sayles. Co-Director Paul Parravano.
Tobie Weiner, student administrator in the Political Science Department. Special Assistant to the President Dr. Clarence G. Williams, ex officio. Chancellor L. Phillip Clay, ex officio. And committee co-chairs, Dean Leo Osgood, Jr. And Professor Michael Feld. Thank you all for contributing to the success of this event.
We will now begin the program with the invocation from Reverend John Westnick. Following the invocation, the MIT gospel choir will present a musical selection. We will then have breakfast.
After breakfast, we will have two students-- Mr. Nicholas Pearce, class of 2007, and Mr. Bruce Webster, a graduate student-- guide us in a reflection on the life and legacy of Dr. King. Chancellor Phillip Clay will recognize the 2003/2004 Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership awardees. We will then have a musical selection from Mr. Ronald Hopkins. Then, we will hear remarks from Dr. Charles M. Vest, and he will introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Julianne Malveaux. Following the keynote speaker, provost Robert Brown will recognize our Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting professors for the 2003-2004 academic year.
Let us now begin the program with the invocation by Reverend John Westnick. Right after Reverend Westnick's invocation, we will begin breakfast. Reverend Westnick.
WESTNICK: Please join me in prayer. Almighty God, we gather this morning in celebration as a listening, living testimony to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the true heroes in our recent history. We lift up his values and life, his leadership and struggle, his dreams and his memory. Help us here to leave behind the hindrances and annoyances of the morning thus far so that we might be present in full awareness of the day.
The people around our table-- the faces and our friends in the room-- enable us to enjoy the speakers and the music, but not without hearing the full meaning of what they have to say to us, the implications for each. We know we have not completed the task of justice, nor peace. Help us all to do our part in bringing the dream into focus for our nation and the world. Enliven us all.
We lift up also the leaders and followers, old and new, who continue to labor for a better reality. Lift up all those who have made this morning possible. Bless the food before us, all those who prepared it, and those who will serve. Oh, God, we lift all this up to You. Amen.
PRESENTER: I would now like to present the MIT gospel choir.
[MUSIC - JUDITH MCCALLISTER, "SING PRAISES TO THEE"]
MIT GOSPEL CHOIR: (SINGING) I will sing unto the Lord a new song. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. I will clap my hands before Him, praise Him all day long. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee.
I will lift my Savior up for everyone to see. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee, for there's no other place I'd rather be. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. Hallelujah, hallelujha, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee.
I will sing unto the Lord a new song. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. I will clap my hands before Him, praise Him all day long. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee.
I will lift my Savior up for everyone to see. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee, for there's no other place I'd rather be. Hallelujah, sing praises to Thee.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. He's King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, hallelujah. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. He's the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Hallelujah, hallelujah. He's the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Hallelujah, hallelujah. He's the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Hallelujah, hallelujah. He's the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, sing praises to Thee.
PRESENTER: And Bruce Webster, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics. They will guide us in a reflection on the life and legacy of Dr. King. We will hear first from Nicholas Pearce. Nicholas.
PEARCE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Nicholas Pearce, a freshman in the Department of Chemical Engineering. On this morning, when we have gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of one of our nation's most prolific civil rights leaders, we must also take care to consider the progress that our nation has made since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated his dream in August, 1963.
In those 17 brief minutes a little over 40 years ago, Reverend King brought the struggle for civil rights by black Americans to the national forefront. King's words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day declared his dream for a free America for all people. We remember the dream, but does the heart of the dream still beat today? We will be careless to believe that Dr. King's dream is dead in any sense. However, it is more than fair to say that his dream has not yet been fulfilled.
Dr. King's dream is in the hearts of millions of people, many of whom were not even alive at the time of his speech. The fight of Dr. King and his co-workers in the vineyard of civil rights was a valiant one, and it continues today. Though the fight for civil rights continues, the battle against them rages with a double determination. The onslaught of enemies of socioeconomically-driven civil rights is unwavering, showing no signs of subsiding.
While socioeconomic civil rights were the focus of Dr. King's work, they are not the only issue that has been championed because of his efforts. Other groups-- including homosexuals, women, senior citizens, and the disabled-- have benefited from federal legislation such as the Senior Citizens' Freedom to Work Act of 2000, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Those both addressed issues of civil rights. However, affirmative action has not been addressed since 1964 with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Without question, the principal issue of these times is affirmative action, especially in higher education. Among all of the issues of civil rights, it seems as though affirmative action has received the least legislative assistance, arguably because it helps the disenfranchised, the very people who Dr. King aimed to assist. Here at MIT, opponents of affirmative action have risen up to confront the minority-focused Project Interphase and MITES programs, the latter of which I am an alumnus.
There are those who have committed themselves to the systematic underachievement of minority students, especially African-Americans. Programs such as the two I previously mentioned decidedly shatter the underachieving stereotype. These programs, and other inclusive initiatives supported by the Institute, have come under tremendous fire.
My positive experiences from the MITES program led me to apply to MIT for my undergraduate education. MITES made the richness of the MIT experience available to me for one summer. It gave me a quick snapshot of the dreams that I could pursue. The Institute is to be commended for its earnest defense of these programs.
However, the national spotlight was thrust upon the University of Michigan and its affirmative action admissions policies in two Supreme Court cases. Our very own President Vest took last year's breakfast as an opportunity to announce MIT's support of the University of Michigan and its policies. MIT has rededicated itself to diversity initiatives. In the face of legal opposition, MIT has made prudent decisions regarding its stance on this issue and must continue its efforts in the face of pressure.
We cannot be discouraged, because backing down due to pressure simply allows the civil rights advancements of the past 50 years to dissipate into nothing, a state from which it had been successfully raised. We must be careful not to forget to look back as we move forward, drawing inspiration and courage from the tenacity of men and women such as Dr. King. In this 21st century, civil rights are indubitably under siege. The attacks are great, the opponents many. But the resolve of the principled American has not faded one bit.
There is erosion across the landscape. Everything is being challenged or contested, even the things that were once considered automatic. Voting rights-- challenged. The right to an equal educational opportunity-- challenged. In essence, the right to have your rights is being challenged. The concept of civil rights being under siege is a definite reality.
Ladies and gentlemen, the fact of the matter is this-- race still matters in America. We cannot be so naive as to believe that the opponents of civil rights have taken a break. Despite the rhetoric being tossed around that we live in a free and equal America, the writing on the walls of time suggests otherwise. Those who suggest that our society is a colorblind one are incorrect. Though most Americans may not be blatantly racist, the proverbial playing field is not level for everybody in American institutions.
Clearly, Dr. King hoped people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The dream yet lives, the hope is kept alive. But until the day that every member of every race, color, religion, or creed is afforded the same chance to excel in this nation, then our world-- civil rights-- will remain under siege. We must not let the efforts of the past 40 years elude our eternal grasp.
As I conclude, the words of Dr. King come to mind. "Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security." He went on to proclaim that we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.
Until our faith has become substance, the fight for civil rights must continue. And rest assured, as long as there is a fight, there will surely be an opponent. Thank you.
PRESENTER: Thank you very much, Nicholas. We will now hear from Bruce Webster. Bruce.
WEBSTER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Bruce Webster, descended from a people recognized by the United States' government as the Navajo Nation. We call ourselves Diné. In our tradition, I am of the [INAUDIBLE] dóon'e clan and born for the [INAUDIBLE] clan. I am also a graduate student in the aeronautics and astronautics department here at MIT, a United States Air Force veteran, and an alumnus of the Nike Sports and Fitness F in Beaverton, Oregon.
This morning, I would like to speak about whether it is rhetoric or reality. Are our civil rights under siege? Looking at the two United States Supreme Court decisions of 2003, it is a reality that the civil rights of all are under siege.
What appears to be under debate-- in the application of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, the petitioners in Grutter versus Bollinger and Gatz v. Bollinger contend that they were treated unfairly in their applications submitted to the University of Michigan. A distinction must be made. What is fair can be unjust, but what is just cannot be unfair.
Judge Clarence Thomas offered a dissenting opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger. Comments were made contending that a man should not be assisted, that a man should be allowed to stand on his own. The dissenting opinions offered rebut the belief that diversity enhances the education of all.
A ridiculous argument is made to allow applicants three feet shorter or 20 years younger special consideration on their application. These opinions argue that the admission system is fair since it was devised by the dominant society. This is the same dominant society that enslaved men based on race. This is the same dominant society that decided who could vote based on race, based on literacy, and based on gender.
The application system is based on standardized tests. There are courses available to study for all standardized tests. And, of course, these courses are offered in most large cities for a substantial fee-- a fee that cannot be paid by some, because they are not in the upper class. What is fair, and what is just?
In the United States, it is said that you can be whatever you want to be. In this capitalist society, it is said that you earn your way to the top. Or is one ad put it, we make our money the old-fashioned way-- we earn it. Apparently, they chose to overlook where the wealth in this land was acquired-- wealth acquired on the backs of slaves, wealth acquired on deceitful deals made with the people that did not understand, wealth acquired on the subsidies provided by the poor, and wealth acquired with SAT, LSAT in GRC scores that can be bought.
Where is our wealth to be acquired when we are allowed to come to the table 200 years after the wealth of this land has been divided and handed out? That is the truth that the dominant society does not want to talk about. Fair and just is not pretty when the magnifying glass is turned on the dominant society.
I've heard all my life about the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred in Nazi Germany. What about the American Holocaust? What about the attempts made to exterminate my people? What about the policies of termination by relocation? What about the stealing of our children by adoption? And what about the sterilization of our women?
Nazi Germany had Hitler. The United States government had Kit Carson, the United States' cavalry, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Now, we have a whole generation of boarding school survivors.
These children were taken from their homes, from their parents, to learn the ways of the dominant society. These children-- my parents, my aunts, and my uncles-- were taken from their homeland. Their hair was cut, and they were not allowed to speak their native language, and they were not allowed to practice any of their traditions. How would you feel if you or your children were taken by a foreign nation at five years of age?
That same language that was beaten out of my parents is now being celebrated as an integral part of the United States' victory over Japan in World War II. Does that sound just? It sure doesn't sound fair. That is the America I know as the America I fought for.
Most of my traditions I've come to learn as an adult, but my language was not taught to me. My parents thought it best that I learned the language of the dominant society. They thought it would help me succeed in this society. I guess the government did a good job on my parents.
My people are different. We believe in the larger plan of the creator. In military convoys, the slowest vehicle leads. And in combat units, it is our creed to leave no one behind.
In our warrior society, the greatest feat in battle was not to kill your enemy. The greatest feat in battle was to lay a hand on your enemy-- a tribute to your skill and courage. It appears that the dominant society is trying to leave some of us behind, but I am not worried. The creator has brought me close-- close enough to touch the enemy.
And I'll close with these questions. What opportunities has the creator given you? And what will you do when given the opportunity to touch the enemy? Thank you.
PRESENTER: Thank you, Bruce. Once again, I would like to thank both Nicholas Pearce and Bruce Webster for those wonderful remarks and for letting the words of Dr. King be heard once more. I hope that everyone here today really had a chance to listen carefully. Now, I have the honor of introducing Chancellor Phillip M. Clay who will recognize the 2004 MLK Leadership Awards. Chancellor Clay.
CLAY: Thank you very much. Last evening, we had the opportunity to have a dinner at which we honored this year's winners of the MLK Leadership Awards. The basis for these awards were detailed in last week's issue of Tech Talk, and I won't detail them here, but I do want to introduce them to you. And I do want to emphasize that this is an award for leadership which reflects a combination of their service and their commitment to the values that Dr. King represented.
So let me ask each award winner to stand as I read your name. LaRuth McAfee. LaRuth?
Dr. Salvatore Malica.
Dean Blanche Staton.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING]
And Professor Philip Thompson.
These are our 2004 award winners. Congratulations. Thank you very much.
PRESENTER: Thank you very much, and congratulations to the recipients of the awards. I would like, at this time, to welcome Mr. Ronald Hopkins who will sing a musical selection in tribute to Dr. King.
HOPKINS: How's everybody doing today?
- So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow--
--I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that, one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that, one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Precious Lord, take our hands and unite them together as one where we stand. We are not to be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. In your eyes, Lord, no man is above another, so we should love all-- all of our sisters and brothers.
I have a dream that we shall all be free, living in a world full of love, peace, and unity. I want to be free at last, got to be free at last. Thank God Almighty, now I have-- I have a dream.
- I have a dream my poor little children--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Oh, yes I do.
- --will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but be the content of their character. I have a dream today.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) I had a vision the people will perish, that without hope, there will be no tomorrow. So we must teach our children and learn from the past, build a foundation to help the next generation. Lord, in your eyes, no man is above another. So we should love all-- all of our sisters and brothers.
I have a dream that we shall all be free one day, living in a world full of love, peace, and unity. I want to be free at last, got to be free at last. Thank God Almighty, now I have-- I have a dream.
- So let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring, from the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaious slopes of California. But not only that--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Oh, I have a dream--
- --let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) --that we shall all be free one day--
- --Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) --living in this world full of love--
- Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) --peace and unity.
- From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
HOPKINS: (SINGING) I want to be free at last--
- And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) --free at last.
- --when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Thank God almighty--
- --from every state, we will be able to speed up the day--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) --now I can live the dream.
- --when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands--
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Oh, yes, I can.
- --and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last! Free at last!"
HOPKINS: (SINGING) Oh, yes, you can. We can live a dream.
PRESENTER: Thank you, Mr. Hopkins, for that wonderful selection. Now, President Vest will give some remarks and proceed to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Julianne Malveaux. President Vest.
VEST: Thank you, Veronica, and thank all of you for joining us this morning to celebrate the life and vision of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to students, faculty, and staff here at MIT, I'm especially pleased to welcome this morning to our event City Councilor E. Denise Simmons. Denise, are you here?
Welcome, thank you. Thank you for joining us. MIT has been holding this celebration for 30 years. That's a large chunk of our history. And for 14 of those years, Becky and I have had the honor of hosting it.
It has become-- for us and for the entire community-- a warm, important moment in the annual cycle of our university and a powerful reminder of some of our deepest values and most important responsibilities. We have met and listened to important leaders of America's history, creators of our essence. We have been inspired and renewed.
My only complaint is that each year, for several weeks after this moment in February, I can't get the strains of Lift Every Voice and Sing out of my mind. I can't concentrate on anything else. I suspect some of you share that with me.
But as an annual event, there is a danger. And that danger is captured in the title the organizers chose for this year's breakfast-- Rhetoric or Reality. Annual renewal is extremely important for a long and frustrating journey, but there must indeed be a reality, as well as a rhetoric.
So what about this period of 30 years? Think about MIT in 1974, and it's hard to imagine that we are in the same place. Of course, in so many ways, we are not the same today as we were then. In 1974, over 95% of our faculty were men-- predominantly white men. Fewer than 3% of our faculty were African-Americans, Hispanic, and Native Americans.
And what did our students look like in 1974? Forgive me, but it is MIT, and I'm going to talk a little bit about numbers because that is part of the reality. In 1974, about 12% of the undergraduate and graduate students were women. About 5% of our students-- almost entirely undergraduates-- were people of color.
When Becky and I came to MIT in 1990, things had changed quite a bit in some respects, thanks to the leadership of people like Paul Gray and so many others who are, in fact, with us here today. Women had moved from 12% to 34% of our undergraduate student body, and to 20% of our graduate students, and 10% of our faculty. Underrepresented minorities had moved from 5% to 14% of our undergraduates, had become about 3% of our graduate students, and still only about 3% of our faculty.
So what is this part of the reality today? In 2004, women are 42% of our undergraduates, nearly 29% of our graduate students, and just over 17% of our faculty. African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans add up to nearly 20% of our undergraduates, 4 and 1/2% percent of our graduate population, but just over 4% of the faculty.
Looking back at the proportion of women and minorities in our community over 30 years, the picture is clear-- enormous progress for women undergraduates, good progress for women in graduate programs, some progress for women in our faculty. And what about the groups that we are here to think about today, our members of various underrepresented groups? Good progress that we can be proud of at the undergraduate level, a little at the graduate and faculty levels. In short, even as we move forward with building diversity and success at the undergraduate level, it is clear that improvements in the undergraduate enrollment over this period simply have not easily or automatically translated into progress in our graduate population and in our faculty.
You all know that I am an optimist, however. So I can't resist looking at the other half of the cup and noting that, while these fractions show little growth for our underrepresented minority in our graduate and faculty populations, there has in fact been a significant growth in absolute numbers between 1990 and today-- a 73% increase in the number of minority graduate students, from 163 to 282, and a 48% increase in the number of minority faculty from 27 to 40. And despite the small size of these numbers, that growth is important, because every number represents an individual human being whose life and contributions are precious.
Still, I have to say that the one area I believe I really have not succeeded in as your president is that we have not accelerated the racial diversity of our faculty-- or, for that matter, our graduate student body. We simply must work harder and more creatively to sustain the progress that we've made at the undergraduate level and to improve our graduate populations and make faculty careers viable and attractive for the full spectrum of people in American society. This imperative-- as those who spoke before me today have made clear-- is made even tougher by the turn of events in the last few years.
It seems to me that is the summit of the mountain we are climbing. It's begun to come into distant view. The slope is getting steeper, and others are destroying rocks in our path.
First-- challenges to universities' abilities and right to select their own students according to the criteria that best support their educational mission. Second-- challenges to our programs of outreach and mentoring to younger students. And third-- international security concerns that are translating into barriers for students, faculty, and scholars who wish to come here from other countries.
Now, people of goodwill can-- and, indeed, do-- differ politically and philosophically about how to achieve the goal of a more equitable society, one in which our colleges and universities more accurately reflect the face, the reality, of America. But I have to say that there is also a mean-spiritedness abroad in our land, one that is given voice and power by people who in fact do not agree with our goal, let alone how to reach it. But the one thing we cannot do is pretend that the goal has been met and that further explicit work is not needed.
When it comes to college admissions, modest gains that have been made in the last decade are fragile. In my experience, these gains are largely the result of specific outreach, mentoring, and constant attention to seek out, inspire-- and I really want to underline that word, "inspire"-- and support the very best minority students. I have seen nothing in my career as an educator that suggests that eliminating targeted efforts will produce anything other than a slowing, or a reversal, of the gains that we have made.
When we gathered this time last year, our ability to consider race as one of many factors in college admissions was totally at risk as the Supreme Court considered the challenges to affirmative action that were raised in the two lawsuits against the University of Michigan. In science and engineering, especially-- where the numbers of students entering these fields is declining-- it is more important than ever that we are able to draw on the talents of our entire population. And this still, in my view, requires special efforts if we are to have that ability.
The good news, on the legal front, is that we won. Last year's Supreme Court rulings in the Michigan case were a clear endorsement of admissions practices like those here at MIT in which we use race explicitly, but as one of many factors in selecting our entering class. When we choose each class, we first narrow the pool to those whose grades, class rank, record, et cetera show that they have the ability to succeed and to contribute to MIT.
But then, the tough work begins. We have to make the difficult, subjective choices from among this group to select that roughly 14% who we will actually admit. And we have to do this by assessing, as best we can, the whole person-- where they came from, the challenges and opportunities they have encountered, the contributions they made to their communities and families, their zeal for learning, their creativity, their determination, and so forth. But knowing a student's race in America today is clearly one of the elements that help us to form an understanding of each individual.
I have no illusion that, after the Michigan decision, there will not be future challenges to affirmative action and other targeted efforts by colleges to admit the best classes for our programs. But I am equally confident that MIT will continue to uphold the principles in which we believe-- and that, by the way, have served us so well. We can hope that Sandra Day O'Connor was right when she expressed the hope that, in 25 years, we will no longer need affirmative action programs.
But today, we still need these particular targeted efforts if we are to reach our societal goals. And make no doubt about it-- we must be prepared to deal with continuing tests of our resolve, which are likely to come especially in the form of referenda in the states and in assaults on our programs of outreach to high school students. Indeed, as has already been stated this morning, some of these programs here and elsewhere already find themselves in very murky political and legal waters.
In the early 1970s, MIT established outreach, and mentoring, and enrichment programs to attract young Latino, African-American, and Native American high school students to the engineering profession. Now, these are populations that had not tended to view engineering as a particularly obvious or attractive career. I don't believe that we and other universities saw this task as one of political orientation or ideology. We saw it as a part of our responsibility to provide all of our students as rich and full an educational experience as possible, as well as to meet our responsibility to prepare a professional workforce and future leadership that reflects the face of America.
During the last two decades, however, we have come up against-- the last two years, we have come up against serious legal challenges to such efforts. As most of you know, a complaint filed against us by two special-interest groups led to the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education to review two of our pre-college summer programs-- MITES and Project Interphase. These two programs have served over 1,000 promising young men and women very well.
In light of these legal challenges, however-- and please believe me, with the very best advice of every legal expert we sought out-- we concluded that we should not continue to limit participation in these programs exclusively to underrepresented minority students. We indeed broadened the selection criteria to include other students whose backgrounds might otherwise stand in the way of their studying science, and engineering, and mathematics, but who also support the basic goals of the programs. In making these changes, we will ensure that these programs will continue to serve their original goal, because they created inspiration and opportunity for young people of color, and they have not destroyed opportunity for anyone else.
My fear-- and, presumably, the aim of some others-- is that, over time, such diffusion of effort will wear down the gains that we and others have worked so hard for so many years to establish. These two areas-- of challenge, missions and outreach programs-- illustrate a very real dilemma. We are expected by our society, even today-- and, indeed, by the federal government-- to advance diversity and opportunity in science and engineering. In fact, in this strange world of 2004, we were given mandates by the federal funding agencies to reach out and engage minorities, and women, and people with disabilities in the work of our research programs and research centers that they fund. And we are expected to be accountable for producing results.
But at the same time, we are warned by the same government that targeting such efforts to specific populations we're supposed to advance in ways that we know work will not be acceptable under current interpretation of the law. This ambiguity-- this catch-22-- is simply bizarre. We are being told to reach explicit goals, but not to make explicit efforts to achieve them.
A similar dilemma can be found these days with regard to international students and scholars. We know that, in a great university in the 21st century, there are many dimensions to the diversity that enriches our lives and scholarship. The openness of US research universities to students and scholars from other countries has been overwhelmingly successful in building the excellence of our institutions, enhancing the educational experience of our students, contributing to American industry and society, and building goodwill for the US around the world.
Here at MIT, our Nobel Prize recipients include faculty colleagues who were born in Japan, and India, and Mexico, Italy and Germany, as well as in the US. And American industry relies greatly on engineers and computer scientists born in other countries, most of whom came here as graduate students. There are signs, however, that responses to the obviously legitimate heightened concerns about our national security are rapidly undermining a great source of our vitality. International students, scholars, and visitors to the US were subjected to new reviews, interviews, delays, and much more frequent denials of Visas. And we are seeing efforts to restrict the involvement of foreign students in certain areas of study or research, despite the fact that they are not classified, and that we do not do classified research on our campus.
During the last year-- and I want to be clear about this. During the last year, the government did make numerous improvements in process and policy. But nonetheless, the number of students and scholars coming to the US is trending downward. But the more important issue is whether there are changes in the quality of international students and scholars coming here. Will our universities continue to be magnets for the best and brightest students, not only from every corner of our nation, but every corner of our world?
Now, you might ask, why bring international politics into today's discussion? But I want to remind you of something that Dr. King said. Dr. King said, "We all came in different ships, but we're in the same boat now." Diversity is one of this nation's greatest strengths. And diversity by its very nature is broadly encompassing, and the principles are the same.
What is happening in the name of Homeland Security represents a major challenge to diversity, spoken broadly. It puts me in mind of a character in Finian's Rainbow who said, "An immigrant? Damn, my family's been having trouble with immigrants ever since we came to this country."
So I urge you all to be cognizant of-- and cherish-- the great value to be found in the broad openness of our universities and because of the particular history of our country. However, we must pay particular attention to diversity as it applies to race in America. The inroads made by underrepresented minority groups into higher education and careers in science and engineering are fragile. They have resulted from deliberate, concerted attention and actions. We must work together to open opportunities and encourage careers in science and engineering to everyone who has the interest and ability to pursue this path.
And our actions, at the undergraduate level, must be accompanied by equally strong efforts to bring greater racial and ethnic diversity to our graduate programs and our faculty. We have not succeeded in these dimensions, pure and simple. For graduate students, one immediate goal should be to increase the yield from among the graduate students whom we admit. Our own graduate student council has presented this case in a very compelling manner, and we need to follow through.
Persuading more students to accept our invitation requires, above all, a personal touch. And frankly, the same is true of faculty recruitment. It is simply not enough, as it may have been in an earlier era, to make an offer and simply expect that everyone will jump at the opportunity to come to MIT. Again, it calls for us to pick up the phone and make the case why that person should be here and to ask how we can help him or her choose us. It means inviting them to meet future colleagues and putting together startup packages that say, we want you here.
Now, while I do not hide behind it, the fact is that the national pool of faculty in science and engineering is woefully inadequate. And that, even as we improve, as we struggle to improve the diversity of faculty, the strategic key- the strategic key-- is to increase the graduate populations in these fields around the country. The progress we have made can be credited not so much to institutional programs-- although they surely have their part-- as to individual commitment, perseverance, and leadership.
Where there has been change, it has been the result of individual leadership on the part of department heads and faculty. But to really succeed, we have to go beyond developing or sustaining admissions and outreach programs for students, recruiting more faculty of color. These are necessary steps.
They're metrics, but they are only first steps. The real challenge does not lie outside our walls. The real challenge lies within our hearts. And it lies in the expectations we set for our students and for ourselves-- in the ways we teach, in the amount of time and effort we give to supporting our students and colleagues. The progress that has been made has been the result of institutional programs and individual efforts in scores of ways-- mentoring a junior colleague, inviting a student into a research project or study group, providing financial support, extending a hand in friendship, taking the risk to get to know someone of a different culture, or religion, or race.
We have been through some difficult times on the racial front over these years. And I sometimes-- as I'm sure you do-- get discouraged that we will ever eradicate the ignorance and prejudice that keep us from being all that we can be with, and for, each other. But we have had some moments of which we can be proud, as well.
I think about the ways in which our community came together after September 11, 2001, reaching out and supporting one another at that terrible time. We shouldn't need a crisis to bring us together. In our everyday lives, we should celebrate learning about and with each other. And as I said in my inaugural address 13 years ago, such change is rewarding, but seldom easy.
During the years ahead, we must refuse to let the centrifugal forces of intolerance and injustice pull us apart. We must be held together, by respect for the individual, and by a commitment to those values we hold in common. That was our challenge then. It is our challenge today.
Thank you for being here. And thank you very much for 14 years of inspiration, of challenge, and hope. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you very much. But now, it now gives me great pleasure-- now gives me great pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.
Dr. Malveaux-- who received her PhD in economics from MIT-- is a noted author and commentator on economic and social issues, particularly those relating to race and gender. She is a producer of public affairs programming for the Public Broadcasting System. A self-described mad economist, she is a regular columnist for USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, and more than 20 newspapers around the country. And she is a frequent contributor to such national magazines as Essence, Ms., Crisis, Black Enterprise, and others.
She serves on the boards of many national organizations devoted to policy and action on economic and social issues, and is chair of the board of directors of the National Child Labor Committee. And then, coming to MIT this week, she is on familiar academic ground, having taught at Berkeley, Stanford, and the College of Notre Dame. Please join me in welcoming this morning's keynote speaker, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.
MALVEAUX: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
MALVEAUX: Y'all got to talk to me. Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
MALVEAUX: President Vest, thank you very much, both for the warm introduction and for the update on what's happening here at MIT. I speak all over the country, so I'm kind of used to speaking. But I wasn't expecting the waves of nostalgia as I listened to you talk about MIT-- the challenges, and then having diverse admissions, and some of the issues that we've been facing over the years.
I came to MIT in 1974, partially thanks to a woman who's here the audience, Linda Sharpe. I don't know if she remembers writing me a letter when I was an undergraduate student at BC saying, please come to MIT. The outreach situation was one that made it difficult for me to say no, although some of my conservative colleagues in the economics profession now assert that I probably am not really an economist, but something else, because of the work that I do on politics. But Linda, a belated thank you, very much, for reaching out to me.
Lots of other friends of long-standing-- I don't use that word "old" anymore. After you have certain birthdays, you don't use the word "old." But friends of long-standing in the audience-- and there are probably too many to mention-- I just want to say that it is good to be back at MIT. It is a place of nostalgia.
I don't know how many of you remember Dr. Phyllis Wallace, who was a professor in the Sloan School, and a mentor to me. And I probably would not have finished here were it not for Dr. Wallace. For one thing, I never knew another African-American woman economist.
And at the times that I thought about, well, maybe I'll go to law school, or maybe I'll go into the media, she was sort of saying, no, you're going to finish this degree. She was a really-- [LAUGHS] then, do whatever you want. She was a really special person-- special to so many of us-- and a real giver, and mentor, and role model for all of us.
The question that's been raised today is a question about civil rights under siege. And before I continue, I just have to just acknowledge the student speakers this morning. Both of you gave me a lot to think about, were excellent oratores, and with searing commentary about our times. Especially want to-- now my long-standing thing gets in the way. I have to look at this to remember the young man's name.
Bruce, I was really touched by what you had to say about our nation's hypocrisy, touched all the more so because you're a veteran. One of my recent books is called The Paradox of Loyalty: An African-American Response to the War on Terrorism. African-American men constantly fought for the right to fight, as did native men-- for the right to fight, for the right to be in our armies-- and so, in fighting for the right to fight, exhibiting the ultimate form, I think, of patriotism. And yet, finding it rewarded in very poignant ways-- and, in fact, unrewarded. You really touched my soul, and I really want to thank you for that.
The question that we raised this morning-- are our civil rights under siege? And the answer is, of course. They're under siege directly, and they're under siege indirectly. Many have mentioned the Michigan case, and the Michigan case is a cornerstone for two reasons.
One-- Sandra Day O'Connor said, it's going to take 25 years. Well, how does she know? Of course, this is the same person who said in the Croson case that people could not prove past discrimination. Now, she is writing about a case in Richmond, Virginia-- in other words, the bass head of the Confederacy-- and she's asking black people who have gotten minority business set-asides to prove discrimination. I think my very tongue-in-cheek comment at the time was, shall I show you the chains?
In any case, she doesn't know what is going to happen. But what the Michigan cases do are raise questions about the very fabric of our society and a whole set of entitlements that we need to begin to look at. When you looked at the plaintiffs in Michigan, they were whiners. I mean, what was wrong with these people?
I mean, they truly thought that they were entitled to slots at the University of Michigan-- entitled. And because they didn't get them, they were going to sue. This is how we've ended up with such a litigious society. If I don't get my way, I'll sue.
There are x number of slots. There were people that were white people who scored more lowly than they did but were admitted. So this was just a misplaced sense of entitlement. It was quite fascinating.
But the unmentioned issue here is the Center for Individual Rights-- the Center for Individual Rights, which is funded with corporate dollars. Some of the same corporations that support us with progressive work also support the Center for Individual Rights that goes around, plaintiff-shopping, looking for aggrieved white people that they can file lawsuits on behalf of. I will warrant that these were some of the people who filed the lawsuits against Interphase and the MITER program. And those people are-- they're evil. And evil seems like a--
Because they literally are stuck, they have decided that they want to turn the clock back. They make a series of disingenuous arguments. And we have failed not only, A, to call them on it, but, B, to call their corporate friends on it. What we need to do is look at who was funding them.
Look at who is funding them. I mean, Coors is a great example. I'll pick on Coors for a minute, because Coors is now running around saying, we're okay. We don't discriminate anymore, we're not mad at unions. No, but we give $5 million a year to the Center for Individual Rights.
Well, at some level, no, you don't have to pick on unions. Just pick on black folks. Literally, we need to look at who these corporations are and call them on it. You can't have a King Day celebration one day and fund the people who are trying to dismantle the dream the next day. And that's part of what's happening.
The other thing that seemed to me to be interesting about the Michigan case with the sense of entitlement was the extent to which people don't look at this notion of fairness with balance. In other words, the process of putting together a college class is almost like the process of composing a symphony. You would not want a college class that had 1,000 people with 1600 SATs on them. They might be brilliant, but some of them would be awfully boring. We know this.
[LAUGHS] We're at MIT. But we know that we want to look at-- as they do in the state of Michigan, we want to look at making sure people who are rural are there, as well as people who are urban, people of color, as well as others.
One of the things that no one's complained about with the Michigan case is this thing called chancellor's preference. You got 20 points for race, but you also got 20 points for this thing called chancellor's preference, which mean the chancellor could be reading the Detroit Free Press and find that there's a violinist who seems wonderful with a C-plus average. And said, let me give them my 20 chancellor's preference points, because we want a violinist. Well, if you can cut and paste these things for violinists, and alumni, and football players, and you name it, why can't you parse it for race?
Well, we know that we can talk about the tax dollars of people of color going to support institutions that exclude us. I don't want us-- I'm not going to spend all my time talking about affirmative action, but I think it's important also to be clear about what else is happening in higher education, because it's connected. Lots of our attention goes on affirmative action at elite institutions, like MIT, but the bulk of African-American students are going to start out at community colleges and state institutions. And what's happening there? Because our president-- well--
[LAUGHS] --let me see. I really don't usually call him the president. I call him the resident, because he just lives there.
I mean, he just moved in. It was like abandoned housing. You're a urban studies professor, you understand this thing of abandoned hou-- you know, Clinton left. Gordon didn't move in fast enough, so he moved in, turned on the utilities, and there he is.
And then, spending billions of tax dollars on these tax-cut proposals that have put our budget in jeopardy. And 40% of our 50 states are in economic jeopardy. And what this has meant at the state level is that people are cutting everything. And so, in some states, you have double-digit increases in tuitions at state universities.
In New York state, a 40%-- four zero-- a 40% increase in the tuition. Here in Massachusetts, I believe it was something around 20%. In Ohio, it was 22%. New Mexico, I think, was the best state-- they had 2% increase. But there are more than 15 states that had double-digit increases in tuitions.
Increases in tuitions, cuts in financial aid, and more and more students of color are saying, we can't go to school. So we must focus on the elite institutions, because they're important, because they set policy, because they lead the way. And we count on these institutions, President Vest, to take the legal risks, to assemble the legal teams.
MIT and Harvard can do it easier than the State University at Northridge can. We count on them to do that, but we also have to look at the total fabric of our society and what's happening with public higher education. And what's happening is that people are being locked away, locked out, because of the crazy policies of this administration. Now, we know there were no weapons of mass distraction-- could have told you that a long time ago.
[LAUGHS] And let's just pray that Mr. Bush does not pull a bin Laden out of his hat on Halloween as he goes into the election with the polls against him-- oh, I found it. I can tell you, maybe, where Osama bin Laden is. See, I think he's in Detroit.
[CHUCKLES] I think he got a haircut. I think he's pumping gas at a 7-eleven and dating assistant named Mabel. This is what I think. Now, I don't know this, but the Middle Eastern population of Detroit is quite high, and disprove it. I mean, disprove it. Start going to 7-Elevens.
I mean, I shouldn't say that too loud, or Ashcroft might try that. He tried just about everything else. But in any case, what we know is that these tax policies combined with the money we spent on toppling Saddam Hussein-- $180 billion dollars-- the money that we spent has had a deleterious effect on the quality of lives, especially of people at the bottom, that the moneys that have been spent have been moneys that have literally been spent to dismantle the dream.
I don't know quite how we decided that Dr. King's dream from the 1963 speech would be most of what we would focus on. But when we get to January 15, everybody plays the quote. And, of course, Dr. King had such a sonorous voice. And he was such a rhetoritician that it makes sense, and we all enjoy it. "I have a dream."
Wonderful song, incidentally. I enjoyed that, too. "I have a dream that people will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin." Yes, he said that. But that, literally, is the least of what he said. If you simply focus on that, you have missed Dr. King.
In the very same speech-- in the very same speech-- he said, "We have come to our nation's capital to cash a check, and the check has been marked insufficient funds." Now, if you thought "cash a check" every time you heard "I have a dream," imagine how different our society would be. See, I allege all the time-- it's an act of professional chauvinism. But I allege that Dr. Martin Luther King was an economist.
I mean, everybody wants to claim him. The religious community claims him, the inspirational community claims him. I was in Venezuela a month ago. I went to Venezuela to celebrate Dr. King's birthday. Hugo Chavez has claimed Dr. Martin Luther King as an icon in Venezuela.
So everybody can find some of Dr. King that they like, but I would encourage you to read him in total. Do not just read that 1963 speech. Indeed, if you have time, get the book A Testament of Hope-- that has everything in it-- and read it from cover to cover. The Playboy magazine interview of 1968 is absolutely inspirational.
His Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is what I use to establish his economic credentials. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he said, "I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, peace and freedom for their spirits."
"I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies." We have now, still, millions of Americans who go hungry. Can you believe that we have hunger still, in America-- people who still don't have clean water in parts of these United States? "Education and culture for their minds," he said. And yet, how many people are denied access to equal education?
And then you have Mr. Bush's Leave No Child Behind? I mean, my tongue-in-cheek interpretation of that is, let every child kiss my behind. Because if you look at what he's done with moneys, you can have money for testing every other year, but not money for teachers and materials. So you're subsidizing the testing industry.
And who wants a little kindergarten, first-grade, second-grade child to be judged with a pencil-- can they put the circles in correctly? Well, what we need to do is talk about materials, programming. We have not been able yet to wire inner-city schools for internet access. Not that the internet is a basic right, but it's very interesting.
Bruce, when you talked about SAT prep classes and other classes, you have people who can pay thousands of dollars for SAT prep, and some who have no prep. And this is how the gap continues to be widened. So he said, "education and culture." we still don't have that.
And "peace and freedom"-- I mean, can we talk about peace and freedom today? What our country aggressively decided-- and how do you spell weapons of mass destruction? O-I-L. How do you spell weapons of mass destruction? Halliburton. Just had to give back $26 million for overcharging the United States government for meals that they never served in Iraq, charging almost $3 a gallon for oil. When is-- how?
I mean, I just trying to figure these kinds of things out. They truly baffle my brain, they really, really do. And speaking of affirmative action and baffling one's brain, when Mr. Bush went to Yale and said, you too can be the president with a C average, I thought, yes, only if you have no melanin in your skin. I mean, that was a most powerful affirmative action program I've ever seen a Yale. How do you admit Bush?
But back to Dr. King. I couldn't help that. [CHUCKLES] But in any case, when you look at that Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dr. King has laid out for us a plan-- what we need to do. Dr. King talked about our economic system in ways that were absolutely revolutionary.
He said, in 1968 in Where Do We Go From Here, there are 40 million poor people in America. And you have to ask yourself this question. What kind of society produces 40 million poor people? And when you ask the question, then you have to ask about the basic structure of our economy.
He goes on to say, who owns the oil? Who owns the iron ore? If the world is 2/3 water, said Dr. King, why do we pay water bills? Don't send that to the water company, it will not work. But it's a question worth asking in terms of distribution. It's a question that he asked throughout his life.
Yes, he started out as a country preacher, trying to get people from the back of the bus to the front. But he evolved into someone who not only cared about the economic structure of our country, but the economic inequalities that persist in our world. And he talked about it.
And you've got it in your program. It's one of his great quotes about the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. So you have all this churn about micro-change, the illusion of change. He talked so much about those kinds of things. And that's the King we want to ignore.
Reasonable people have room for reasonable disagreement. But it fascinates me that Dr. King has now become a great American hero, so much so that Walmart-- that does not pay people, especially undocumented immigrant people, reasonable wages-- locks people up in their buildings so that they can work all night and not leave. That Walmart takes out full-page ads-- we, too, have a dream. What dream?
That McDonald's-- and Burger King, too-- have a dream. That everybody would get fat?
That everybody claims a dream without looking at the text and the subtext. It is almost an Americanism to have "sales" in your name. You have President's Day sales, and Mother's Day sales, and now you have Dr. Martin Luther King Day sales.
There is a man in Washington, DC who has a fur sale-- F-U-R, a fur sale-- every King's birthday. Now, for about the last five years-- until last year-- I decided I would stop, because if I [INAUDIBLE], at least he wasn't going anywhere with them. I'd call up and say, do you understand the irony of what you're doing? This is Miss Malveaux, remember? The lady who called you last year? Do you understand irony? [LAUGHS]
And he sort of talked to me for a few minutes. And he say, it's the crazy lady again. Could somebody get her off the phone? But the temerity of someone to sell fur, a symbol and a badge of elitism-- to sell fur on Dr. King's birthday, to have a fur sale. So somehow, we've given Dr. King this great American designation, but we've forgotten what he said. See, if we remember what he said, we might not even be sitting here. We'd be out somewhere doing something about what's going on.
Dr. King, literally, deplored gradualism. He was livid at the system. Young man, you talked about his quote on dissatisfaction. That's what he talked about-- let us be eternally dissatisfied. But we're not eternally dissatisfied. It's okay.
I mean, he literally was repelled by what we are doing as a country. He said, about poverty, "The curse of poverty is an abomination in our age. It is as," what did he say? "It is as desperate as the practice of cannibalism." He likened poverty to cannibalism-- people eating people-- at the turn of the century. Just imagine that.
Now, we walk by poor people. We don't want to give them spare change. In my hometown of San Francisco, Willie Brown-- who I almost love-- actually had a piece of legislation that outlawed what they called aggressive panhandling. Now, I'm not sure how you do passive panhandling. You sort of hold your hands toward the person and say, om, nom.
And you hope that, somehow, they'll get it and share. But I love panhandlers, because they remind me that we can't forget about the poor. And yes, panhandlers raise questions for us. Some of them are drunks. Some of them are drug addicts.
Some of them are crazy. But guess what? Poverty will make you crazy. Homelessness will make you crazy. So it's something that's very recursive that we've decided we don't pay attention to.
You know, I thought about Dr. King very recently when I saw Judith Dean on television. Now, I'm not a Dean fan. I think he is crazy. But I think that she is a very articulate and principled woman who said, "I am not a thing person." But we are a thing nation.
She said, "I am not a thing person." So if her husband gave her a bush for their anniversary, it's all right. It was at her birthday-- whatever, she got a bush. I'm not into things. You looked at her, and she wasn't dripping with gold or diamonds. She was taking care of people.
Well, Dr. King said is that we have elevated things over people, machines and computers over people. We have a thing society, not a people society. We elevate profits over people. And because we do that, we end up with this system of exploitation, not only here, but abroad.
Why did September 11 happen? I don't know, but I know one thing. I know that when my 77-year-old mother heard that it happened, she said, what took them so long? Not because she was happy-- we actually lost a distant relative there. Not because she was happy, not because she was rejoicing, but because you cannot have affluence and poverty coexist next to each other
46% of the people in this world live on less than $2 a day. Do you hear me? Live on less than $2 a day. And when they are constantly treated to our invasive culture, which comes to their countries courtesy of CNN, HBO, BET, MTV-- I mean, imagine being on the African continent and watching somebody shaking their booty to BET. Well, there's no water there. I mean, it's kind of like you think you're in some kind of science fiction novel. But when you have so many people earning so little money and being so constantly disregarded by our society, yeah, they're mad at us.
Black folks will understand this, because we all have read the Langston Hughes story of the preacher who came to your house. Back in the South, back in the day on Sunday, the preachers will come to your house, and you couldn't eat until the preacher ate. And the United States is like the big, fat preacher who came to eat, sat down, ate one side of the breast then the other side, one leg then the other leg, one thigh then the other thigh, one wing then the other, and left the back-- and say, y'all have a good day. That's literally what our nation does in terms of resources.
And most of you have seen that preacher. You just hoped that your mama held some of the food back. Is there anything else in the stove, because he ate too much. You're thinking, no human being could eat that much chicken, but they did. And that's the United States.
I think the rest of the world looks at us, says, no one country can inhale that many of our world's resources, but we do. Not only do we inhale the resources, but then we deal in an arrogance. I don't know why September 11 happened, but I know that the week before, we walked out of the World Conference Against Racism-- left. I know that the person that we sent to lead that delegation was not our best and our brightest. We sent a Deputy Assistant Secretary.
Now, I'm not disrespecting a Deputy Assistant Secretary. There was a point in my life when I wanted to be one. But this is a new PhD-- young, white male with a new PhD-- who is leading the delegation. So he doesn't know which way is up or down. He's just there.
He calls Washington. They say, leave, he leaves. Literally, the United States did not participate. We said to the rest of the world, forget you, we're not thinking about you.
No, I don't think that all of those things are the reason this happened. And certainly, September 11 was probably one of the most horrible, horrible days that our nation has experienced, or at least that some people in our nation have experienced. The other people have experienced horrible days before.
You talked about the Holocaust, Bruce. There have been several holocausts in this country. We talked about domestic terrorism. There's this thing called Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921, where the United States government dropped bombs on black people in their own community-- in their own community-- out of economic envy, because they were mad that black people had too much money. So people have experienced terrorism.
Cornel West said, in the wake of September 11, "Now everybody knows how it feels to be black." In other words, not to know what's going to happen next, not to know what's next, not to know what's up-- not only to be black, but to be part of any other country. Now we know how it feels to live in Israel-- you get on the bus, and you don't know if the bus is going to get there, or if the bus is going to get you. You literally have no idea. But people there keep living, and so have we.
Have we learned from September 11? President Vest, I don't think so. Like the MIT community, people all over the United States pulled together. We start talking about the same boat, but when I hear the same boat called, I always say, yeah, we're all in the same boat. But some people are riding, and some folks are rolling. Some folks are coasting, and some folks are working, and we see that.
But we all came together as a nation. We were all touched and moved. And now, we're back to our same old ways. Nobody is angry about poverty. We have 10 million Americans-- 10 million-- who earn less than $5.15 an hour, who haven't had a raise since 1996 and, excuse my Ebonics, but ain't nobody mad.
People look at them and say, oh, well, maybe they didn't work hard enough. Let me tell you something, people who have minimum-wage jobs work real hard. They are among the hardest working Americans there are. And just imagine this for a little minute--
Thank you. What if minimum wage workers all disappeared? What would we do? How would we live? Who would pour our coffee, throw our newspapers, park our cars, take care of our aging parents and our children? Those are the people who earn the minimum wage.
Dr. King did not die dreaming. He wasn't asleep. He died trying to raise the workers-- wages, rather-- of garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee, where the black men were being paid less than $1 an hour in 1968, while white men were being paid about $1.65. Now, nobody was getting rich, I'll warrant you that. But look at that pay disparity.
Another part of the disparity was this. The black men, in inclement weather, could be sent home-- so they didn't work, which meant they didn't get paid-- while the white men were sent inside to do work. Those men walked around with signs that said, I am a man.
When I was 12, 13 years old-- I don't know-- I saw the signs when this was happening. And I said to my mother, well, that's obvious, they're men. You know, teenagers are very flippant. So I was like, that's obvious. Why do they have signs that say, I am a man?
But then, when I began to read the history, it was clear-- because they were not treated as men. They weren't treated as human beings. They weren't treated as people. They were dealt with as if they had no dignity.
We still do that. We still treat poor people as if they have no dignity, no rights, as if they're not our fellow Americans. And we do it callously and casually, and we don't even care. And if we care, it's episodic caring, like the quarter you put in someone's hand. That begins to do something, but it doesn't do much.
King said, on one hand, you're "called upon to play a good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will only be an initial act. One day we must come see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway." Constantly beaten and robbed-- the ways that we treat poor people, and the trick bags that American capitalism puts poor people in, are things that we need to investigate.
The integrity of the credit card society-- credit nation-- is something that is an additional shackle for the poor. We are, as Dr. King said, a thing culture. We feel good, we buy. We feel bad, we buy.
We get a new job, we need new clothes for our new job. We lose our job, we need new clothes, because you can't wear those other. You need casual clothes, so you have to go buy some casual clothes. No matter what we do, our response-- our programed response-- is we buy.
The irony, of course, is that our economy expands when people spend money, that 2/3 of our economy is based on increased spending. But somehow, how do we control the fact that we are asking people-- even forcing people-- to spend when they don't have the means to pay it back? The credit card industry sent out 400 million credit cards last year. There are only about 160 million adults-- I didn't say credit-worthy adults, I said adults-- who will qualify for a credit card, who are over 18, whatever.
My 20-year-old nephew got a credit card application. It was so funny. He called me. He said, Aunt Julianne-- he was so happy. He said, Bank of America wants to give me $1,000.
I was in a meeting, and he calls me on my cell to tell me this. I had to excuse myself. I said, baby, read the fine print. Well-- now? I said, yeah, now. So he got to the part about the 24.9%. He said, but that's not fair.
I said, you sound like the white folks fussing about affirmative action. Now, it's not fair, but that's how it is. So guess what? Don't get the credit card. But these cards are pushed on folks, and then there comes a spiral.
I was talking to a woman-- a friend of mine-- the other day who is, actually, a minimum-wage worker, and she has three credit cards. And she literally had me cracking up. She said that the credit card people had called her because she was behind.
She's behind because she has no health insurance, and her child broke his arm. He was admitted to the hospital with her credit card. Now, she's behind.
She said, the lady called her and said, do you know you're behind on your payments? So she said, yes. So she said, well, I want to help you pay your bill. She said, oh, good, are you going to send me some money?
But what they mean by "help you" is they want to figure out a way even to get in your bank account. What the credit card person said to her was, do you have another credit card? So why would you pay one credit card with another credit card? And she would go help her by setting this up electronically.
I said, what did you tell her? She said she could help me by sending $5. I said, hon, the problem is she makes as much money as you do. She didn't have anything to send you.
But this spiral of thing-ism is something we don't pay attention to. People at the bottom pay big interest, people at the top pay little interest. The level of our inequalities reverberates.
Go to inner cities and look at the quality of grocery stores, just grocery stores. Go to suburbs and look at the many options. Look at the prices at inner city grocery stores. Go to suburbs and look at the many options.
There's a Costco in Pentagon City in DC, and there's a housing project. There's no way to get from the housing project to the Costco. But the person who needs 24 rolls of toilet paper is the person who has the six kids. I don't need 24 rolls of toilet paper. I have to have a co-op when I go to Costco-- holler at my friends, you want some toilet paper?
I got 24 rolls, you can come and get some toilet paper. They're like, what's wrong with you? I don't need that much, but it was so cheap, you could hardly resist it. The people who need it are the people who don't have access to it. And these access questions are not the questions we're raising.
Oh, we've made so much progress, so much progress. The signs don't say white or colored anymore. The question isn't whether or not you ride in the back of the bus, it's do you have bus fare? Do you own a bus company? Can you zone the buses?
Those are the questions. Can you determine which country you're importing and exporting the bus parts from and with what kind of tariffs and protectionism? Those are now the questions.
And if you think zoning is not an issue, think about upstate New York, where Johnnie Cochran successfully defended or got a settlement for a family where the woman lived in a housing project-- single mom, trying to raise herself up, and so was working in a department store, in a complex. But the bus did not go from the housing project to the complex, because the complex did not want poor people shopping there. So this young woman, at 18, take the bus to across the street and then run across a six-lane highway to get to her job-- her minimum-wage job-- so she could get off public assistance.
Run across-- one day, the inevitable happened. A truck hit her. And what they tried to argue is, it was her fault. Why wasn't she paying attention? Johnnie Cochran got her son $2 million.
Thank the Lord for Johnnie Cochran. You know what? That's who you should get next time there's an affirmative action problem.
I think you should call Johnnie Cochran. He might be able to hook it up.
But basically, the challenges of the civil rights struggle have changed. So we're not just talking about signs at the back of the bus. Now, we're talking about who gets to go, who gets to have access, and whether or not we care. Dr. King said, "The economic highway to power has few entry lanes for Negroes." He said this in 1964. It's still the case today.
Yes, we have black millionaires, more of them than ever. Yes, they're highly celebrated. Yes, we have black poverty. 25% black population, poor-- 40% of our children. And so when you look at a place like MIT with considerable pride, or President Vest, at the work you've done in your 14 years-- and congratulations-- you also have to ask the question about whether a young person down the street on Western Avenue has any chance of coming to MIT.
We paid attention to some of the issues, but have we paid attention to all of them? And this is the question I leave you with. Dr. King was not trying to do something gradually. He wasn't trying to do something nicely. He was killed trying to do something in your face.
The Poor People's Campaign planned to take 6,000 people to Washington, DC to occupy government offices-- to sit at HUD, to sit at HHS, to sit in every government office-- and demand that people pay attention to these societal poverty problems. That didn't happen the way he planned, because he was killed in April. The movement did not have, basically, the energy to take it on.
Yes, the Poor People's Campaign happened. They did have a tent city. But it was much different from what King had planned. He cared about this so much that, in the two weeks before his death, went down to the King Center and looked at his schedules. On the week of March 23 to 30, 1968, he gave 23 speeches in one week.
He criss-crossed rural Georgia, got on a plane, and went to LA. Was moving around the country, because he wanted us to feel that we could change the system, that in eliminating and eradicating poverty here, we would take a first step from doing it abroad, as well. He was on fire about that. It wasn't something where he thought he could sit down.
How many of us feel that we want to change the system so much that we will not rest, we will not sit down? Who in this room-- who in this world-- has the audacity of a Dr. Martin Luther King? See, audacity means nerve. I have the nerve to-- believe me.
You think you can pass this little tax cut here, you could raise the minimum wage by $0.50. No. He said, people everywhere can eat, people everywhere can be educated, not I'm going to pass some little law. That's what Dr. King said, and we have to relate to that. And if we don't relate to that, we shouldn't necessarily think about that dreamer, because there was more to it than a dream. Here is what he said, and I'll close here.
He said, "I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who've been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. I choose to live for and with those who find themselves seeing life as a long and desolate corner with no exit sign.
This is the way I'm going. If it means suffering a little bit, I'm going that way. If it means sacrificing, I'm going that way. If it means dying for them," he said, "I'm going that way, because I heard a voice say, do something for others."
Dr. Martin Luther King was of black people, but he did not belong to us. He belonged to a world that needs to be readjusted, a world that needs to be restructured and rearranged. And when we celebrate him on a day like this, we have to ask, what rearranging are we willing to do? Thank you very much.
PRESENTER: Thank you, Dr. Malveaux, for your heartfelt words. Provost Robert Brown will now recognize the 2003/2004 Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting professors. Provost Brown.
BROWN: Thank you, Veronica. Good morning. All right, we're getting better. It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to introduce several of our Martin Luther King fellows and scholars that are with us this morning.
The MLK Visiting Professor Program was founded in 1995 to bring to MIT black and Hispanic scholars to enrich the diversity of our academic community. The program has sponsored visiting faculty in all five schools at MIT. Typically, candidates are nominated by individual faculty members enjoying the faculty and teaching staff of these departments for the duration of their stay. While in the departments, they participate in teaching and research, interact with faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students.
This year, we have seven visiting professors and scholars in the program at MIT. Three of them are with us this morning. I will introduce each of them, who are sitting at the table, down below. Professor Jonathan Farley. Jonathan?
Jonathan is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Vanderbilt who is visiting in the Department of Mathematics at MIT. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard University and has a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford. He's been a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar and a postdoctoral fellow in the Mathematics Research Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. Welcome, Jonathan.
Professor Maglo hails from the University of Cincinnati where he is assistant professor in philosophy. He's visiting in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. He holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and education from the University of Benin in Togo and a doctorate from the University of Burgundy in France. He's an expert in contemporary philosophy of science, as well as the history of modern philosophy and metaphysics.
Finally, I'd like to introduce Patricia [? Powell. ?] Patricia?
Patricia is visiting the program in writing and humanistic studies at MIT. She received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley and has an MFA from Brown University. Patricia is a prolific writer of fiction, having already published three popular books and is working on a fourth, and has also published numerous short pieces. Her academic focus is on Caribbean-American cultures. She has taught at both Harvard and the University of Massachusetts before coming to MIT.
Please join me in welcoming these people to our breakfast and to our community. 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 join in and sing the first verse, found on the back of your program booklet. Please stand and join hands as the song is sung.
[MUSIC PLAYING - LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING, JAMES JOHNSON]
MIT GOSPEL CHOIR AND AUDIENCE: (SINGING) Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening 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.
[LAUGHTER] road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had 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 that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, out from 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 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, where we met thee. Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to our God, true to our native land.
PRESENTER: I would now like to continue with an announcement relevant to our celebration. If you would look in the inside of your program here, the Martin Luther King, Jr. IAP Design Seminar has an installation in Lobby 10 titled Resurrection City and MIT, Tribute to Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign. Now, I would like to ask Reverend Johanna Kiefner to come forward to give the benediction to close this morning's program.
KIEFNER: Hear words from Nelson Mandela. "The time for healing of the wounds has come. The time to build is upon us. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination.
There is no easy road to freedom. None of us acting alone can achieve success. We must, therefore, act together as a united people for reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world."
And may the God who has birthed us in the fire of freedom, and justice, and peace, encourage us in the work we do and in the lives we lead that all may know the fullness of a life lived where we are all truly brothers and sisters. Amen.
PRESENTER: I hope everyone has enjoyed this morning's program. It's been a wonderful event, which I'm sure will remain in all our hearts for a long time. Thank you all for coming, and we hope to see you again next year. This concludes our 30th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Have a wonderful day.