Office of the President

January 12, 2018

Through service, we honor Martin Luther King’s legacy

Ana Mari Cauce

Each year, we have an opportunity to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by adding to his extraordinary legacy. Leading an institution built on the bedrock of public service, I am frequently moved by the many ways in which I see the University of Washington community extending Dr. King’s work – serving those in need, the public interest and future generations. I see students like School of Social Work master’s candidate Stephan Blount who, together with his colleagues, worked with communities to reduce risk factors for middle schoolers, and engineering major Tsewone Melaku helping to make STEM education a reality for underrepresented high school students. Their work is remarkable, and they share with thousands of others in our UW community a commitment to perpetuating King’s vision of a better world.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King delivered to his Atlanta congregation the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, probably best remembered for the quote, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.” But I am especially moved by what King said just before those famous words, in which he imagined what might be said about him at his funeral, which tragically followed just a few months later.

He hoped for “somebody to mention…that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others… that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.” That he tried to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit those in prison. He told the congregants, “I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”

Service was at the core of King’s message and his life, and that enduring legacy is a beacon for us as we work to make our present and our future more equitable and kind, to lift each other up and to cherish our common humanity. This week, join your colleagues on our campuses in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma as we come together to remember how King served our nation and our world and honor his sacrifice by answering his call to service. This Monday, I hope you will seek a way, whether donating your time and talent or simply in a moment of quiet reflection, to keep working toward the just and loving world that King dreamed of.