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Honoring King’s legacy on our journey toward a more equitable world

This Monday, classes and the day-to-day business of the University of Washington will pause in annual remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.  He remains an enduring example of how one person can change the world. Although countless individuals — both famous and unsung — participated in the American civil rights movement, he provided the spark that ignited the movement. His life and work are the irrefutable proof that a lone voice can raise a chorus, a single step can inspire thousands to march, and unyielding resistance to injustice can be the foundation for lasting change.

King’s life and legacy are remarkable, but they are not just consigned to history. His legacy is a living one, which renews with every act of service and every step toward ensuring the equality, dignity and human rights of all people, everywhere. The core values that animated the civil rights movement continue to inspire our great public University. We seek to honor and practice them in our daily lives and through our shared mission.

There are many opportunities to honor King’s legacy through service, including during the MLK Day of Service. Our Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center can connect University faculty, staff and students with projects that need your hands and heart, from helping to restore our public lands and bike trails to providing childcare for our neighbors without homes. At UW Bothell, there are multiple events where community members can get involved, and UW Tacoma, in partnership with the Black Student Union, is hosting a Unity Breakfast.

I know that so many of our UW community members and friends are having an impact in their communities — through our public schools, volunteering for charities and non-profits, and through their personal philanthropy, on MLK Day and every day. I hope that however you use this holiday, you take a moment to reflect on the dream that King lived and worked for and what your part in making that dream come true might be.  It’s in this spirit that this coming fall, all three campuses will undertake a campus climate survey to help us better understand  understanding how to make our campuses more welcoming and inclusive. We are committed to nurturing a culture and climate  that prizes mutual, respectful engagement as a pillar of our educational model. You will hear more about the survey later this quarter. It is only through broad engagement with this work that we make sure all our voices are represented in the outcome — and in the actions that will follow.

I continue to be inspired, every single day, by all of you — our students, faculty and staff — who perpetuate King’s legacy in the work you do and through your kindness, empathy and vision for a more equitable and just world. There is much to be done.  And perhaps the difficult truth is that justice and equity are not a destination where we might someday arrive, but a journey that we will always be on. As I make my own way on that journey, I’m deeply proud to travel with you.