Dear UMPI Community,
On Monday, we honor the achievements and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, voting rights champion, and Nobel Prize-winning peace and justice advocate, whose legacy serves as an enduring inspiration to us all. We honor not only his achievements and his dedication and sacrifice, but also his vision for a nation truly indivisible made possible through justice for each and every individual.
Dr. King’s words and concepts are ubiquitous—in memes and phrases—in social media, reference works, and political writings. But by far the most powerful way to experience his teachings is through the speeches and sermons themselves. If you have heard them before, I encourage you to return to them again; if you have only experienced his words through memes and quotations, I exhort you to hear him directly. These are but three of his remarkable works:
- Perhaps his most famous speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, to a massive group of civil rights marchers gathered around the Lincoln Memorial, is popularly known as the “I Have a Dream Speech”.
- On Christmas Eve, 1967, King delivered what would be the last of his Christmas sermons, from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In this sermon, King remarks that “this Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race [with] neither peace within nor peace without…We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” “A Christmas Sermon for Peace” surely remains as relevant today as it did over 50 years ago.
- King’s final speech was delivered to striking sanitation workers in Memphis, the day before he was assassinated. In it, he provides assurance that their struggle for equality will undeniably succeed, even without him: “We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse…we don’t need any bricks and bottles…we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say…we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned.” I encourage you to view what is known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
In addition, there are many documentaries and films of his life and achievements available, for general viewing, on the web. “Decades Presents: 1968” dedicates an episode to King’s life and legacy. Along with archival footage of his speeches, this documentary includes interviews with many of those who worked and planned and demonstrated with him, who have gone on to become great activists and leaders themselves. HBO Documentary Films and the Kunhardt Film Foundation produced the Emmy-winning “King in the Wilderness” in 2018, focusing on the last two years of his life, as well as specific events such as the James Meredith march, anti-Vietnam War protests, preparation for the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Memphis sanitation strike.
On Monday, you can register to attend a free live public reading of Dr. King’s 21-page “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written in April 1963 addressing Alabama’s white clergymen. Featuring multiple voices, contemplative music, and space for reflection and co-hosted by the BTS Center and the Maine Council of Churches, the event will take place online January 26, at 12:15 pm.
Finally, I encourage us all to bear in mind Dr. King’s reminder that life’s most persistent question is “What are we doing for others?” Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994, ensuring that, each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day can serve as a focal point reminding each and every American of the importance of service above self, about our ethical imperative to make positive change for all of those within our local, national and global communities. You can participate in this legacy by volunteering your service on campus or in your community, either individually or with an organization. This engagement can occur through your academic programs, student clubs or student governance, or campus offices and organizations, as well as those within our local communities. You can find more information on the UMPI website about our campus clubs and organizations. And I encourage all within our UMPI community to seek involvement and connection through the work of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council and its activities. For more information, please feel free to contact its convener: Mary Kate Barbosa (Director of Student Support Services).