On Monday, January 18, Elizabethtown College President Cecilia M. McCormick, J.D. spoke to members of the campus community as a part of an Interfaith Prayer Service which celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Read President McCormick’s message below:

Today, we are reminded of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and he is commemorated as the leader of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement, as the symbolic leader of African Americans in our country, as an amazing role model for all of us in using non-violent methods of protest to reach success, and as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The observance of MLK Day, the third Monday of January each year – is considered to be a “day on” and not a “day off” – it is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service. All Americans and each of us at Elizabethtown College are encouraged to volunteer to improve our communities. While this year the pandemic has altered our hope to celebrate and honor this day; there are still opportunities to serve and learn. Today or this week, reach out to someone who is alone, infirm, or suffering.  Send a note or card to a friend or relative; help a neighbor; or show a random act of kindness.

Today, please reflect on Dr. King’s ideals, his words, and his life’s work that are still making a significant impact on our world. If you have not read his “I Have a Dream” speech, please do so today or this week.  If you have read this speech, do so again. All of the events of this year – a global pandemic, the election season, political divide, social unrest, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the insurrection at the Capitol have caused me to reflect deeply on the life, legacy, and the significance of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

When Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in our nation’s capital on August 28, 1963, he told the crowd, “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 (and women) are created equal”.

Unbeknownst to us last year or ever before, that phrase may have an even deeper meaning today in 2021 as we deal with the unrest in our country and knowledge that we have not achieved equality.

At Elizabethtown College we are guided by our mission and core values that will ultimately speak to the character and morals of our students, faculty, and staff. We are guided by our values of peace, human dignity, respect, and social justice. We must continue our work together as a campus community to hold ourselves accountable and lead by Dr. King’s example of, “the time is always right to do what is right.” The right time for us is now!

While we have our principles to position us in the right direction, there is much work to be done at Etown, around our community, and in our country. The harkening of peace and unity does not mean the absence of conflict but instead facing our issues with shared responsibility and civility. It also comes with the understanding that it will take time for change to make significant impact.

We must blend equality, tolerance, and justice for all in our classrooms, our activities, and in our everyday lives. As I mentioned earlier, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we of course cannot be together today. However, we will come together (safely) on March 3 for our own campus day of service to make impacts on the lives of others in our community. This is the first time at Elizabethtown College, we’re observing MLK Day with no classes or offices open because we want to acknowledge the day with service in accordance with our mission.

Our day of service does not stop there. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will hold a series of events over the coming weeks honoring the work of Dr. King and others and I encourage you to participate and strengthen your knowledge and broaden your understanding of how we may collaborate in nonviolent ways to take on challenging discussions to improve our campus culture.

We all must be in this together. This type of cultural and societal change on our campus will require everyone’s support and dedication. It’s not going to take a day of service, or two weeks to create real change. It will take a considerable amount of attention, resources, and as I shared earlier, time, to change, but the key is—we must act and do this together – now.

Since we announced our new diversity and inclusion action steps last June, we have made strides, but we still have a long way to go. We must stay honest with ourselves, measure our steps, and improve where we lack progress. I am encouraged and hopeful that we can sustain the momentum and truly achieve equity, dignity, and inclusiveness for all on our campus and those who come to us in the future.

Dr. King once shared, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” How will you take his words and incorporate them into your life’s educational journey, your work, and purpose?

Thank you for forging ahead with us on these efforts.