9th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration - A. Leon Higginbotham, "Rekindling the Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Time of Retrenchment”
GRAY: Good afternoon. It's a privilege for me to welcome you here today, once again, for the Institute's 9th annual memorial observance, honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We come together, each year at this season, to honor this great leader for the lessons he taught us about justice and injustice, about human values and human relations.
It seems to me that we need now, more than ever, to pay heed to those lessons. Why now more than ever? Perhaps this sense comes from events in the life of my own family, and the life of this institution during this past year. For my family, this year marked the arrival of a new generation. Our first grandchild, Hannah, was born.
Every birthday, indeed every coming of life into this world, is an occasion for dreams. When this first child, of our first child, was born, I could not help but think about, and hope for, the world which she is entering, and into which she will grow.
And today, I cannot help but think of Martin Luther King's hopes for his own small children, hopes he expressed in that historic moment 20 years ago, when he stood before the Lincoln Memorial and said, I have a dream. I have a dream 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.
Who among us would not wish for a future based on the quality of the inner person, rather than on the power of a culture which accords so much opportunity, security, and privilege on the basis of race, or color, or gender, or religion? And who among us would not wish for our children, for our grandchildren, for ourselves, a peaceful world. One in which all individuals are accorded a full measure of their humanity. One in which a recognition of our common condition leads us to care for each other in a spirit of decency and dignity and mutual respect.
And yet I look at our society today, indeed I look at our community here at MIT, and sometimes I wonder. I wonder when we will realize King's dream of a world in which all of God's children, black and white, Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, will be able to join hands and walk together as sisters and as brothers.
It has been 20 years since the March on Washington. On the whole, I believe conditions are better. But social justice is a fragile thing. These are difficult times, times of economic and political retrenchment, times when people are more likely to build walls than they are to build bridges. And as opportunities in the larger society seem to dim, many people look to the universities, to the churches, to the other private institutions in our society, to do more, to be more.
At the same time, places like MIT have not escaped the economic forces which limit our horizons and our grasp. Forces which require us to cut back on programs and plans. Neither have we escaped the tensions and the fears that accompany hard times. This year has certainly been a witness to that. We cannot, however use economic conditions to justify meanness of spirit. Nor can we blame all difficult decisions on assumptions of ill will.
In the months ahead, as we make choices about the kind of institution we want to be and can be, we need to build bridges, not walls among the people and the programs of MIT. Our future strength as an institution, our future strength as individuals, will depend upon our ability to remain true to our common calling and purpose, on our ability to nurture the forces of creativity and cooperation which give life and vigor to this community.
Now, more than ever, we need to rekindle the spirit of Martin Luther King, for our children, for our grandchildren, for ourselves. Yes, friends, even for ourselves.
TYLER: Thank you, Dr. Gray, for your warm welcome and your timely remarks. Again, I welcome you to the ninth annual observance, honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. My name is Margaret Daniels Tyler and it is my pleasure to serve as your mistress of ceremonies today. We have planned what we hope to be a thought-provoking program in remembrance of Dr. King. And we hope that you will leave with enlightened and renewed spirit.
We will now have our invocation from the Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles, minister of St. Paul's AME Church, here in Cambridge.
ATTLES: May we stand. Let's bow our heads. Our eternal God, our Father, we thank you for this day. We praise thee. We glorify thee. We give thanks to thee.
We thank you for this occasion that we have been able to assemble. We thank you for the memories of one of they great warriors, who fought a good fight of faith, who exemplify your precepts in his lives and shared it with so many. We thank you for the brave individuals who fought and stood for freedom during that period. We thank you for allowing him to come through our midst and touch our lives. We thank you for those today who stand for freedom and justice for all.
We pray for courage that we will stand firm on thy precepts that we are truly our brother's keepers. We pray, this day, that the events that will transpire, and have transpired, will be a reminder that we should continue to fulfill those dreams, that we learned about, that we've read about, that will bring brothers of all colors and races together.
Bless what we do here, and that we may continue to be strong, in serving thee. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
TYLER: Thank you, Reverend Attles. Our hope, our future, as always, rests in the hopes, dreams, and aspiration of our youths. Please welcome Mr. Ralph Davis, a senior at Newton North High School.
DAVIS: This poem is Our Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes. Droning, a drowsy syncopated tune. Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon. I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night, by the pale, dull, pallor of an old gaslight, he did a lazy sway. He did a lazy sway to the sound of those weary blues. With his ebony hand on each ivory key, he made that poor piano moan with melody. Oh, blues. Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool, he played that sad, raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet blues, coming from a black man's soul. Oh, blues.
Well, in a deep, song voice with a melancholy tone, I heard that negro sing, that old piano moan. I ain't got nobody in all this world. I ain't got nobody but myself. I was going to quit my frowning, and put my troubles on the shelf. Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. He played a few chords, then he sang some more. I got the weary blues and I can't be satisfied. I got the weary blues and I can't be satisfied. I ain't happy no more. I wish I had died. And far into the night, he crooned this tune. The stars went out and so did the moon. The singer stopped playing and went to bed, while the weary blues echoed around in his head. He slept like a rock, or a man that's dead.
TYLER: Thank you, Mr. Davis. I know that most of you are familiar with Mr. Nelson Armstrong, Associate Director of Admissions, here at MIT. Nels, as we affectionately call him, will now introduce our keynote speaker, the honorable A. Leon Higginbotham.
ARMSTRONG: Good afternoon, all. I had originally intended today to try to paint a picture of a man that was a very learned and educated man. I thought maybe I would come up here and talk about the fact that he had graduated from Yale Law School and talk about what he had done at Antioch. I thought maybe I would come up here and talk about all the different honorary degrees this young man has, because a total of something like 16. I thought that that would give us a chance to see that we had more than just a qualified person to be standing up here, talking to us.
But it didn't quite do the trick for me, so I decided maybe that's not the picture that I really want to paint. I thought maybe I should paint the picture of a person who was responsible for educating others, to talk about the students that work with him, be they his pages, be they the students that he's had a chance to be in touch with across the country everywhere, to say things to, how he educated us when he came here this past June.
But I wasn't so sure that was the right kind of message to deliver either. So then I decided, let me come up here and paint a picture of a man who's been involved in all kinds of civil rights through his life, who's been involved in the legal system here, who's been right there on the front line all the time to help us out, to make sure that the kinds of things that needed to happen were happening. And I'm sure sometimes he had great success and sometimes he faced failure.
But that wasn't quite enough either. So today I decided why get up and talk all kinds of things and draw all kinds of pictures to make sure that we knew exactly who we were. He was prepared to do that himself. And the very best thing that I could do as I stood here was to make sure that you all knew that here we had a friend. Here was a man that was prepared to come and spend some time with us, to share with us his knowledge, to share with us his experiences, and so forth. So I'll introduce, to some of you who may have never seen him before. And I'll present to you that educator, that learned man, that man that has had that experience, and so forth, that man that's prepared to share with us the kinds of things that he's lived. May I introduce to you and present to you, Judge Leon Higginbotham.
HIGGINBOTHAM: Dr. And Mrs. Gray, Mr. Armstrong, Miss Tyler, Mr. Davis, Reverend Attles, ladies and gentlemen and friends of the MIT family, I wanted to mention one other name, Dean Turner. I understand that he recently had a heart attack, and I wanted to make sure that you would say to him of my high esteem of him.
Handling the very, very difficult problems of bringing justice, whether it is in our court system, or in our city government, federal government, or university certainly carries with it an extraordinary amount of wear and tear. I guess what has become so obvious to me, that so often it is not recognized, those who have the commitment, whose names will not go down in history, the way Martin Luther King's name has appropriately, often have been going on with the kind of internal intensity to bring about a better world. And I would like for Dean Turner to know that I consider him one of the profiles in courage, in American higher education, and I extend my very best wishes.
Of course it is, for me, a high honor to speak about a person whose contributions to our nation and world are so significant, and meaningful. For whom I, like you, will always have the highest esteem, admiration, and respect.
Dr. Williams suggested to me that your theme of today was rekindling the spirit of Martin Luther King in a time of retrenchment. And that theme recognizes that we must first comprehend the spirit and the significance of Martin Luther King's contributions. It forces us to recognize that certainly, in our land, we are experiencing a pathetic retrenchment from the goals which Martin Luther King spoke for, and worked for, and even died for. And hopefully by the very nature of your theme, and the continuance of these lectures to the ninth year, you are expressing a firm commitment to not only rekindle the spirit, but to translate that spirit in terms of solid accomplishments in the lives of the citizens in our nation and world, as King would have urged us.
As we pay honor to Martin Luther King today, it is essential that we not become enamored with the ritual, or celebrations, that have no relationship to the responsibilities and commitment that King continually reminded us of and prodded us to accept. The support of a Martin Luther King lectureship, or even a Martin Luther King holiday, will become an empty act if the supporters are merely applauding King now that he is dead. We must, as your president suggested, make a commitment to implement King's goals for those still living in our nation and world, where too many continue to endure far too much injustice and deprivation.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1855, gave some thought to the fourth of July. And as he started to speak of the fourth of July, he said, when we were political slaves of King George that wanted to be free, we called the maxim that all men are created equal a self-evident truth. But now, when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we've become so greedy to be masters, that we call the same maxim a self-evident lie. And he concluded by saying, the fourth of July has not quite dwindled away. It is still a great day for burning firecrackers.
And maybe that's what our fourth of July appears to be, most of all, these days, with seldom any pause for reflection, with almost never any reaffirmation of our desire for certain national goals. And that could be one of the great tragedies on Martin Luther King's birthday, that we could become so insensitive, that as Abraham Lincoln said of the fourth of July, that it will become a day which is almost a self-evident lie. So how is it that we can keep the spirit of Martin Luther King rekindled? It appears that, particularly at a university, we have to recognize what a heroic figure he was. At the very least, I submit to you that if the high court of history had to evaluate him, they would put him at a level reserved for only a few highly revered leaders, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
But yet I submit to you, that in that judgment role, it should probably place Martin Luther King one level higher. For King did not have soldiers armed with rifles as did George Washington. He did not write, at ease, from his study, as did Jefferson. One of King's most eloquent expressions was a letter written from a Birmingham jail. And King did not have the massive resources of the federal government, as did presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson.
And yet despite a shortage of staff, despite his ability to command governments, or armies, Martin Luther King was able to inspire, to prod, and to encourage Americans to move from a valley of despair, towards, as he would phrase it, a mountaintop of hope. And through the moral strength and eloquence of his arguments, he caused state governments to surrender their position of nullification, and to repudiate their pledge of segregation forever. He motivated presidents, senators, and congressmen, faculty and students. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, though in an official capacity he had little to do with foreign affairs. He was a legend and a profit of our time, not merely for blacks, not merely for America, but for the entire world.
So what is the danger when someone has left us such an extraordinary legacy? The danger is that he will be forgotten or underestimated. And many Americans will never know the Montgomery bus boycott, of the bombing of the children in Birmingham, Alabama, or the march in Selma, of the August, 1963 March on Washington, of the slain and burial of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and maybe some will not know, even, of King's assassination, on April 4th.
Yet these events are for blacks, and for all Americans who care, as sacred as our Valley Forge. King's walk from Selma to Montgomery was as significant as George Washington's advance across the Delaware. King's speech at the March on Washington was as moving as Lincoln's at Gettysburg. King's letter from a Birmingham jail was as profound as anything that Thomas Jefferson ever wrote. But the danger is that the current generation may perceive of him, solely, as a dreamer. And that would be the most tragic distortion of all. Because King was both a dreamer, but most important, an activist. His greatest contributions went far beyond pure eloquence, which he had in such abundance. It was the movements he organized, the marches he led, and the battles the fought, which became the compelling force to transform our nation.
Some might suggest that perhaps Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King could or should be compared. And I'd like to spend a few minutes with you, probing an intellectual journey, and thinking in terms of a comparison of Thomas Jefferson, who was ranked as one of our leading philosophers, our leading statesmen.
Why would you rank Thomas Jefferson so high? What would you say was Thomas Jefferson's most important writing? Some might say it was the Declaration of Independence. Others might say it was the Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms. And others might say it was his extraordinary inaugural address. But if you want to compare Thomas Jefferson with Martin Luther King, let me submit to you what at least one person, Sandy, would say was Thomas Jefferson's most important writing.
He said, and wrote, this advertisement, which appeared in the Virginia Gazette. Run away from the subscriber in Albermarle, a mulatto slave called Sandy, about 35 years of age. His stature is rather low, inclining to corpulence. And for you English professors, I know you will be delighted, that even when Tom Jefferson wrote a slave advertisement, he brought to it such great style. He said, his stature is rather low, inclining to corpulence. At Yale we would have said, he was short and fat. But how did Thomas Jefferson end up this extraordinary advertisement? It said, whoever conveys the said slave to me in Albermarle shall have 40 shillings reward, if taken up within the county, four pounds if elsewhere within the colony, and 10 pounds if any other colony.
And thus Thomas Jefferson, by this very, very advertisement, was repudiating the equality of men, which he had lauded as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence. And how can one put Jefferson and Martin Luther King in the same context? I don't know any way in which I could suggest a medium in which you could explore it, of anything you have an MIT. I would have to go back to a place which may not be recognized by your department of astronomy.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist Church where we heard endless sermons on heaven, as some lofty galaxy where all God's children would someday meet. And thus I ask you, for the purposes of this lecture, to give me your imagination. And imagine, for a moment, that there is a heaven. And imagine, that for a moment, you have the opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation which takes place between Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King.
The conversation proceeds as follows. Martin Luther King has just read this advertisement on Sandy and he starts to talk to Thomas Jefferson as follows.
Mr. Jefferson, now that we're here in heaven, where there is no reward for evasiveness, and where immoral conduct will not be tolerated, please tell me Mr. Jefferson, why did you have slaves? On what moral principle could you justify that advertisement for Sandy? And on what moral precept could you justify your ownership of hundreds of other slaves? Mr. Jefferson, how could you defend the institution of slavery, with all of its pernicious consequence? How could you condone a system, in which individuals were subjected to lifetime servitude, knowing that their children, and their children's children, would suffer the same fate? In fact, Mr. Jefferson, since you were the leader of our country, let me read to you two other advertisements, which were typical of thousands which appeared in your newspapers throughout the nation. How could a society which had pledged to the justice of the Declaration of Independence tolerant such?
Let me read to you, perhaps, only one. Negroes for sale. A Negro woman, 24 years of age, and her two children, one eight and the other three years old. Said Negroes will be sold separately, or together, as desired. The woman is a good seamstress. She'll be sold low for cash, or exchanged for groceries. For terms, apply to Matthew Bliss and company.
Mr. Jefferson, how could you have created a society, where a woman who had harmed no one, who had punished no one could have the child, which she had brought into this world, taken away from her and sold, just the way you sold your tobacco, and you sold your cotton? On what concept do you explain the type of society which you had? In fact, Mr. Jefferson, since we have such equality here, do you mind if I call you Tom? Now Tom, how is it that individuals who were as philosophical, and as profound, as you, men as brave as George Washington, and as eloquent as Patrick Henry, could treat an entire group of people with such special harshness and cruelty, solely because of their skins.
And I would imagine Martin Luther King, concluding, perhaps after pausing for some tea. Tom, I did not intend for my comments to be construed as a diatribe against you. But since, as a leader, our school children give you so much credit, for so many of the significant accomplishments of our country, I submit to you, you must share part of the blame. When, as a nation, we failed to be as humane as we should have been.
I've been talking nonstop. Tom, what is your answer?
And I would imagine that Thomas Jefferson, as a thoughtful lawyer-- if you can imagine any lawyers in heaven-- might first try to answer King's question, by relying on precedent and quoting from scholarly treatises.
I would submit to you that Thomas Jefferson would say, Martin, your question disturbs me. As I see all of the cruelty which was perpetuated for two centuries, and two and 1/2 centuries after our Declaration of Independence, it is not justifiable. As you may recall, that when I wrote my notes on Virginia, I included this line when looking at the issue of slavery. I said, indeed, I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just. That his justice cannot sleep forever.
And I will save the continuation of an imaginary sampling of heavenly dialogue between Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King for another occasion.
But I have used this as an example to raise something which is fundamental as to what can happen in a nation. And what is it that 1776 reveals most dramatically? It reveals that leaders, who are even supposed to be good people, may protect the options for 80% of the people, while at the same time, they perpetuate a system that is oppressive and destructive to the other 20%. That is what occurred in our revolutionary period, justice for most whites, and gross injustice for all Blacks
And as to the 20% of our society who can be forgotten, as they were forgotten in those days, the same thing can happen, and I submit to you is happening, in the 1980s. And it is essential today, more so than ever before, that Americans understand the breadth and the importance of Martin Luther King's concerns, concerns which dealt with the failures that Thomas Jefferson was not able to cope with, or did not cope with. Though in speech after speech, King made reference to the ugly villain of racism, never forget that he focused on jobs, housing, education, health care, poverty, and hunger.
Does this nation want to implement Dr. King's dream? If so, I submit to you we do not carry forward Martin Luther King's dream, if we applaud him while simultaneously cutting off food stamps for the truly poor. We do not carry forward Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, if we leave our cities so destitute of funds that the aged cannot get housing, and deprived children can get neither adequate substance, nor quality education. We do not carry forward Martin Luther King's dream, if we adopt tax policies which tolerate, or even encourage, racism and hatred. We do not carry forward Martin Luther King's dream, if the poor feel alienated, and perceive those in powers as insensitive to the plight of the weak and the dispossessed.
To bridge the gap from Thomas Jefferson's unfinished task to Martin Luther King's dreams. mean increasingly that all of us must focus on the functioning of the economic mechanisms in our society. We must enter the dialogue as to how national resources are used, and how national, state, and local budgets are allocated. We must study with care as to how much is spent on defense to thwart enemies abroad, and how much is spent to deter poverty, disease, and despair, our crippling enemies at home.
We do not carry forward Martin Luther King's dream, if we applaud his dream and remain silent, while diatribes on race are espoused all around us. Just as we make judgments on events surrounding Jefferson and his contemporaries 200 years ago, our generation will be evaluated. And they will ask questions of the 1980s, which will not apply solely to race, they will probe deeply on the options of the weak, the poor, and the dispossessed.
What values and priorities will they find that we now have in our nation? What will be the blind spots and the gaps? Will it be the irony that in a nation of high educational achievement, and many fine colleges, and superb universities, such as MIT, that millions of children receive inadequate public school education? Will it be the contradiction that in a nation, which in 1954, proclaimed that separate was not equal, that nevertheless, 29 years later, we have so much de facto segregation? Will it be the fact that a nation which landed a man safely on the moon, and often sent space shuttles into orbit, cannot create viable jobs for millions of its citizens, who seek a better life? Will it be the paradox that a nation with the highest standard of living, still has 25 million persons living below the poverty level?
And the high court of history will ask questions about MIT. Every time I visit this marvelous campus, I am overwhelmed by your past and present contributions to the development of existing and new technologies. MIT stands almost alone, as a symbol of the highest excellence in science in America, and in the world. It's impressive to note, that five present members of your faculty are Nobel laureates, in physiology, and medicine, in economics, and physics.
But please remember that we meet here today to honor a person, who did not earn his Nobel laureate for any discoveries in the laboratories of academia. He earned his for the human values he pursued, for the human values he advocated, and for the non-violent confrontations he led, in order to bring more justice in America. And thus notwithstanding the technological excellence achieved on this great MIT campus, we must always remember that technological excellence will never be, and has never been, per se, the equivalent of human values.
And pursuing his goal, Martin Luther King was not aided by MIT's radiation laboratories, extraordinary breakthroughs in the development of microwave radar. His fundamental social justice concerns were not solved in any of your laboratories, or advanced by any of your computers. Dr. King recognized that education and technological excellence was important, but it did not mean that it would be translated into social justice. Of the speech which your president has commented, two sections below his reference to his children, Martin Luther King said, I have a dream, that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
Who was it who helped blacks and whites in Alabama to later walk together in greater harmony? And who was it, who made it possible, for blacks and whites to compete, almost as if they were brothers, even on the football fields of the University of Alabama? Certainly it was not MIT's efforts to harness thermonuclear fusion in your Al Qaeda project. It was the March on Washington, the civil rights protests, the civil rights litigation, King's confrontation with Governor Wallace, and the political and financial efforts of millions, that made such a critical difference.
We must not forget that King's great contribution was not a contribution which merely helped blacks. It helped all minorities. And perhaps, as one studies the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and I've been a federal judge, now, for 19 years, perhaps women have been helped more than any other group because of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And if you doubt it, look over the data.
The March on Washington, and the ultimate passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, transmitted a warning signal, telling America to provide more social justice in our land. And these higher, new levels, which these statutes made possible, were unaffected, by even the Herculean efforts at the Lincoln Laboratories, and developing the distant early warning system, the semi-automatic ground environment projects, and your experimental satellites which have been thrust into outer space.
I admire your mastery of devices to determine the physical properties of molecules, such as viscosity, thermal conductivity, and diffusion coefficients. Your leadership and these technologies must continue. But we must never forget, that despite your increasing mastery of science, the weak and the poor in this country can end up as excluded from the current American mainstream as slaves were excluded from the benefits of Thomas Jefferson's egalitarian teaching of the Declaration of Independence. And thus, if we wish to develop the proper coefficients of true social justice in America, we must have a fusion, a fusion of Martin Luther King's dream with MIT's symbolic, superior technology.
Last week, the distinguished president of Tufts, Dr. Jean Mayer said, simple economic calculations show that there is a growing number of people who cannot literally afford what nutritionists consider to be a minimum diet. He went on to say, of all the foolish ways to save money, not to feed people, particularly at a time when we have food surpluses coming out of our ears, nationally, seems to be one of the most short-sighted.
If Dr. Mayer is correct, and I believe he is, and if we are in a period of retrenchment, which I think we are, what would Dr. King say to us today, if he could speak? What would he say to the scholars, the faculty, the administrators, and the students of MIT, and to our nation? He would want us to understand what I think many don't, That in his view, integration alone was never enough. He was not interested in integrated hunger. He was not interested and integrated poverty. He was not interested in integrated unemployment. And he was not interested in integrated crime. What would he ask you?
I think he would say, thinking of Dr. Mayer's remarks, what is the value of superior technology if we can produce big agricultural surpluses and still the poor needlessly starve, or suffer malnutrition? I think that he'd ask you, what is the worth of superior technology, as we expand our industrial capacity, if people who desperately want to work cannot get jobs? I think that he would ask you, what is the value of superior technology, if children can't get quality education, in elementary school, in junior high school, and in high school?
He would ask you to reflect on the last sermon he preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and most of you have heard it, where he said if any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk to long. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. That isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have 300 or 400 awards. That's not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I'd like somebody to mention, that day, that Martin Luther King tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, Martin Luther King tried to love somebody. I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day, I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on the day, I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say, I tried to love and service humanity.
These are the critical issues on which we must focus, if we truly want to rekindle the spirit that Martin Luther King symbolized. He would want us to focus on love, peace, hunger, and jobs, rather than simply honoring him today. He would want us to improve the standards of justice, in our courts, our legislature, our city halls, our state houses, and the White House. He would want us to recognize that verbal platitudes on justice and equality are at best deceptions, and at worst, even venal, if we are not committed to provide an assured justice and equality for all.
How will we, in our generation, as individuals, and in our institutions, respond to the retrenchment? Will we have the courage to seek the truth and to speak out against those practices that fall short of our ideals? Will history be able to say of us, that because of our values, and priorities, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the weak were needlessly harmed, denigrated, and ignored? Or will historians be able to say, that because of our priorities and values, we understood and strove as valiantly as we could to achieve the kind of world Martin Luther King envisioned when 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, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.
TYLER: Judge Higginbotham, thank you for sharing with us your thoughts and insights. You our friend, and you are an inspiration. At this time, Mr. Kemp Harris, a local educator, will inspire us with a medley of songs.
HARRIS (SINGING): Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter. Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter. Some day, yeah, we'll get it together and we'll get it undone. Someday when the world is much brighter. Some day, yeah, we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun. Some day when you're head is much lighter. Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter, brighter, brighter, brighter, brighter. Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll ger brighter. Right now. Right now. There's a new world coming. And it's just around the bend. There's a new day dawning. This one's coming to an end. There's a brand new morning, the one that we've had visions of, coming in peace, and coming in joy, and coming in love. Coming in love. Things are going to get, things are going to get, things are going to get so much brighter. Things are going to get, things are going to get, things are going to get a little bit lighter, things are going to get, things are going to get, things are going to get so much brighter, things are going to get, things are going to get, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter. Someday, yeah, we'll get it together and we'll get it undone. Some day when your head is much lighter. Someday, yeah, we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun. Some day when the world is much brighter. Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter, brighter, brighter, brighter, brighter. Ooh, child, things are going to get easier. Ooh, child, things'll get brighter. Right now. Right now. Right now.
HARRIS: Thank you.
HARRIS (SINGING): Reach out and touch somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can. Reach out and touch, yeah, somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can. Take a little time out your busy day, to give encouragement, to someone who's lost their way. Or would I be talking too strong if I asked you to share a problem that's not your own. We can change things if we start giving. So why don't you reach out and touch somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can.
HARRIS: If he was here, I know he'd love it.
HARRIS (SINGING): Reach out and touch somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can. If you see an old friend on the street, and he's down, then remember his shoes could fit your feet. If you try a little kindness, I know that, that you will see something that comes, very naturally. I know we can change things if we start giving. Why don't you reach out and touch somebody's-- Make this world, yes, yeah, why don't you reach out and touch, somebody's--
HARRIS: I'm going to just listen for a while.
HARRIS (SINGING): Reach out. Ooh. Why don't you reach out and touch somebody. Oh yea. Reach out and touch, somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can.
TYLER: Thank you, Mr. Kemp, for that soulful rendition.
Directly following the benediction by Rev. Attles, please join us in the mezzanine lounge, at the Stratton Student Center for a reception, to which all are welcome. Remember also that the Institute is officially closed tomorrow, Friday, January 15th-- 14th, I'm sorry, in observance of the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Rev. Attles.
ATTLES: May we stand for the benediction. Our Father and our God, we thank you for thy servant, whom thou has sent today, to present ourselves to ourselves, to show us a new direction, to bring us new awarenesses and new hopes and new dreams. Father, we pray that as we depart at this time, that we now part without a burning desire, to fulfill the dreams of thy great servant, that all men ought be brothers. We pray that we may have a burning desire for justice, that would roll down like a mighty stream. Now may thy peace and joy reign among us, brotherly love, and goodwill, with all of thy people, hence now and forever more. Amen.