President McDaniel on MLK Jr. Legacy and Value of Education
I’d like to thank you for inviting me to speak today as we join together in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’d also like to extend special thanks to Murray State College Regent Alan Benson, a lifetime friend and colleague for including me in today’s festivities.
As we gather together to celebrate Dr. King, a man who holds such a pivotal place in the history of this nation, I am struck by how much things have changed and how much they have stayed the same since his assassination in 1968.
Of course, much has changed by way of advances in technology, medicine, air travel, manufacturing and other aspects of American life.
But I am profoundly aware of how many of Dr. King’s guiding principles and humanitarian goals still occupy our thoughts and motivate us today.
Yes, we’ve made progress in the past 49 years, but there is still much to be done. There is still a need for equality…..Poverty still exists…..People still take sides against one another…..and the importance of peaceful, non-violent protest cannot be denied.
It was 30 years ago that our nation first celebrated the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. as an official holiday, but the influence of this powerful leader began much, much earlier.
Born 88 years ago in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized the depth of civil injustice as a very young man. Unbelieving and indignant when told to relinquish his seat on a public bus, this eager student looked to adults for answers. Upon learning that his parents and teachers suffered the same injustices, he set out on a path of advocacy and personal involvement with the goal of bringing about change.
Through his writings, we know Martin Luther King, Jr. was an educated leader who changed the lives of millions. During his lifetime he earned a
Ph.D. and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In reading his words, I am struck by the eloquence and passion with which he wrote.
In one of his most famous speeches, Dr. King says “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, 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 that dream.”
In the world of community college education, in which I have been involved for most of my adult life, we have a dream that very closely mirrors Dr. King’s. We believe that all students are created equal and that each and every one deserves the opportunity to earn a college education. We believe that students have the right to post-secondary education, based not on scores or the ability to pay, their ages, or skin color, but on their desire to learn.
At Murray State College, we also believe that difficulties and frustrations of the moment can be put aside for the greater good of progress and personal growth. We exist for students who want more opportunities, more knowledge and more exposure to the world around them. Education is our purpose and also our calling.
In 1947, while a student at Morehouse College, Dr. King wrote that “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”
I believe that Dr. King’s message was made stronger through his educational background and a practiced critical thought process. He used words and messages to bring about change and challenge others to look at the world with eye trained to “….discern the facts from the fiction.”
In conclusion, it is with pride and admiration that I refer back to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., when I say that I, too, have a dream for the future. It is a dream that through education we can become one global community as imagined by Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a dream that higher education will be available to all in colleges and universities throughout the state of Oklahoma.
By working together for the good of all, I believe we can incorporate Dr. King’s dream and the community college philosophy to produce educated citizens who value equality and will work to promote and perpetuate Dr. King’s message of opportunity for all.
It’s been my pleasure to participate in today’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…..and I ask you all to remember and never forget that education always has been and always will be the great equalizer.