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Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet

January 13, 2017

“One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all” – profound words that hold significant meaning, perhaps more today than when they were first written. An ideal; a promise made by a nation for the present and the future; a set of rights defined as freedoms, unfettered by fear, unquestioned as to applicability; and a responsibility in the promise of justice to its denizens, citizens and non-citizens alike. Could there be many more powerful concepts and ideals that at times seem so very distant – yet so cherished?

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the faculty, staff and more than 52,000 students at the University of Texas at Arlington to the Annual Arlington Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. For many years, UTA has hosted the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Banquet on our campus, and we proudly continue that tradition today.

Tonight we are here to not just honor the past – which we do with great humility – or even to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of our honorees, those to whom scholarships and awards will be presented – which we are also privileged to do, but rather, tonight we are here to commit to accelerating our efforts so that the future will be even brighter. We are here to reflect on the life of a tremendous leader, on the impact that he had on this nation and the world, and on the future of his dream that still stands unfinished waiting for us, for each of us, to play our part in completing the march that he started – a march that continues to move us forever forward towards true equality, liberty and justice.

We are privileged to be in a community with leaders, many of whom are in the room today, who are continuing that march – leaders in the community such as Senator Royce West – people who have dedicated themselves to the service of others.  They remind us every day that service is the highest calling, that a “heart full of grace” and “a soul generated by love” can leave a greater imprint on the sands of time than a person whose existence and very nature depends on rank, position or false esteem. 

And in their footsteps we, UTA, are an institution that continuously recommits itself to the fulfillment of goals of equality and achievement, of big ideas and strong visions, on the shoulders of our alumni and through the hands and minds of our dedicated faculty and staff, many of whom are in the room this evening.

We build the future through dedication to advancing the dream, through the building of an environment that will enable each of our students to be the very best they can be.  One student at a time, one person at a time, we enrich our community. And in doing so, build a better tomorrow for all, one based on liberty and justice, freedom and integrity.

I recognize that there are times when we may be driven to despair by the climate of hate and violence, by the lack of understanding and the increasing rhetoric of intolerance and prejudice. It is in these darkest of moments that I am reminded of the inspiring words from a tremendous leader of men and the person whose legacy we celebrate today:

“If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

Let’s keep moving, let’s fly as high as we can, let’s reach for the stars – let’s dream together, work together, recognizing that the violence, injustice and hate that appear to fill the news do not represent solutions and that mutual respect and love are the only way forward to a better tomorrow, towards a nation that truly represents freedom and justice. This will ensure that we advance the dream, making it a reality for all people, wherever they come from, and wherever they might be at this point in time. Love, grace, service and respect – let’s remember these tonight and in the days to come.

Thank you for being here.  Your presence indicates that you are committed to advancing the dream of ensuring a nation of freedom and justice and that is a strong message of hope and faith. Thank you again.