Tuesday, January 20, 2015

King remembrance challenge: Continue work of community-building

On the evening of January 19, I joined millions of people around the country in paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Eau Claire’s evening program of remembrance brought together people from across the city, the university and faith communities to hear Dr. King’s words read by young and old alike. I was particularly pleased that my son Ben was selected to be one of the readers this year.

Dr. King’s words still have the power to grab our attention, demand that we look at uncomfortable truths and inspire us to continue the hard work of building true community. He spoke often about a “beloved community” (the theme of our evening program) — that community where people are able to bridge differences and work together for what they hold dear.

Creating that beloved community is not easy, and in Eau Claire we still have work to do. At my inauguration as chancellor of UW-Eau Claire, I asked our campus to be audacious in how we create our future. At the King remembrance, I challenged those present to be audacious as well, to come together to create a more inclusive and supportive community that, in Dr. King’s words, opens the “doors of opportunity” to all.

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” On January 19, we came together with light and with love to demonstrate that faculty, staff, students, civic leaders, people of faith and people of goodwill can look forward to audacious work and to keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision strong.

Thanks go to Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton for organizing the event, and for co-sponsors St. James the Greater Catholic Church and University Lutheran Church. Participants included students and faculty from Lakeshore and Putnam Heights elementary schools, Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School, DeLong Middle School and Memorial and North high schools.