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The Arlington Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

January 18, 2019

“Mankind's survival is dependent on man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man's squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony” – profound words spoken by Dr. King years ago but which perhaps have even more significance today.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students at the University of Texas at Arlington to the 30th Annual Arlington Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

Over the past 30 years, the people of Arlington have come together to celebrate and honor the values and principles Dr. Martin Luther King so boldly embodied throughout his life: truth, courage, justice and a core belief that there should be, and there is, more that unites us than that which may separate us.

We are privileged to live and be a part of a community with leaders, many of whom are here tonight who have dedicated their lives to the service of others and to making Arlington–and Texas – a welcoming place that promotes and values diversity and progress. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge legislative leaders who are here this evening: Senator West, Senator Powell and Representative Turner, as well as the Mayor of our City, Jeff Williams, and members of the City Council.  Thank you for all that each of you do for UTA, our city and our community.  I would also like to specifically recognize our alums from UTA, Senator Royce West, Commissioner Devan Allen, and Councilwoman Katherine Wilemon, who have dedicated their lives to public service – we are so very proud of you. They, and other public servants and leaders in our community work tirelessly ensuring that despite the shrill dissonance and divisiveness that we appear to hear of everyday, our community remains focused on enhancing opportunity, and moving towards the cherished goals of true equality.  Would you please join me in a round of applause for them in recognition of their dedication, commitment and service.

The Arlington Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration reminds us annually of the importance of our roles –as organizations, institutions, and individuals in “Advancing the Dream” to always moving forward, never giving up for as Dr. King said “If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

This year’s theme holds us to an even higher standard: Advancing the Dream: Building Harmony, Celebrating Diversity.  The Cambridge dictionary defines harmony as “a pleasant musical sound made by different notes played or sung at the same time.”

Different notes, at the same time.

Think of a choir–the beautiful individual voices, each in different ranges--tenors, sopranos, altos, and bass--coming together to present powerful, awe-inspiring musical experiences. Each voice is wonderful on its own, but there is strength and beauty that comes from these voices in unison, in harmony – different notes, at the same time.

Should that not describe our lives, our world? Unique individuals coming together, to create a better tomorrow –working not in opposition, but together, following a higher plan, in harmony, leading to purposeful, positive, impact. A choir, a powerful message, transcending the very location from which it originates helping us recognize that we can go further together, even as we celebrate the individual contribution of each member of our community.

Celebrating and fostering diversity is part of what sets the University of Texas at Arlington apart. We are an institution that continuously recommits itself to the fulfillment of goals of equality and achievement, of big ideas and strong visions, of excellence and access, of affordability and work force readiness, through diversity and inclusion built 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 equality. In fact, we are the second in the state for most minority graduates overall—and we continue to confer the most bachelor’s and master’s degrees to African American students of any Texas institution.

As an institution of higher education, we take seriously the responsibility to ensure access and opportunity. We know that we provide the pathway to social and economic mobility for so many. We cannot let them down.

March 25th, 1965 – a day that, to many, may seem so very far in the past when after marching from Selma to Montgomery Dr. King exhorted that “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” Those words must be kept foremost as we, as an institution, move ahead, reminding us that we cannot sit by and quietly watch and observe as cherished gains made over the years are allowed to slowly creep back, nor that we can sit content by the successes of the past because the fight for equality and justice is far from over.

We must be cognizant of how we measure potential, how we offer support, and how we guide and direct our students within one of the most diverse universities in the country.  Diversity is redefining society – and redefining education. At UTA, we embrace that through our Principles of Community, cherished values that guide our every step. Change is rarely easy, but for Dr. King’s dream to continue, UTA, and others like us, must be at the forefront to close gaps, and create meaningful and lasting learning and social environments that exist without demographic divides.  To see this change continue, we must not be afraid to acknowledge existing inequities. Ignoring reality will not lead to success. We must recognize where we need to improve, face the reality that there are areas where we fall short, and then strategically implement plans to address these issues.

Like a marvelous choir, we all have beautiful, unique voices, with ranges and individual talents that we must bring together in unison, in harmony, reaching individual goals but ultimately, ensuring that we make the world better for others. Because, as Dr. King said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

So as we move forward, as a university, as a community, let me ask that we move together in harmony, dreaming together, working 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.

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.  Let us continue working together to advance Dr. King’s dream – and ours – by building greater harmony and celebrating the diversity that enriches the lives of everyone who calls Arlington “home.”

Thank you.