Selected Speeches

Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Awards

Feb. 4, 2015
Medical School Teaching Facility


Good morning. I’m delighted to welcome you to our celebration of Black History Month and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This day is an affirmation. It’s an affirmation that diversity is our strength, equality our aim, and service our obligation. It’s an affirmation that we must honor the full range of human experience and expression, because a culture of inclusion inspires more rigorous thinking, more nuanced understanding, and more compassionate action.

These are the ideals for which Dr. King fought and died, and it’s especially appropriate that we take up his work.

In his 1964 Nobel Lecture, Dr. King said that humankind’s ability to solve the crippling problems of injustice, poverty, and war is dependent upon us squaring our moral progress with our scientific progress—that, in an age of material and technological abundance, we cannot let the means by which we live outdistance the ends for which we live. Colleagues, here at UMB we do not lose sight of the “ends,” and, for that, I thank you.

There are two parts to today’s program, and I’m excited for each.

In about 20 minutes, we’ll show a film called MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream, by award-winning filmmaker Marco Williams. Mr. Williams, we’re honored to have you with us today.

Of course, the film is especially relevant here at UMB, given that Baltimore’s own MLK Blvd. sits just one block west of where we gather today—given that many in the city see that street as a dividing line, between wealth and want, between opportunity and isolation.

We have embraced our responsibility to cross that boulevard through an abiding commitment to community. I expect an invigorating conversation after the film.

But, first, I’m privileged to be able to recognize our 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award winners—faculty, staff, and students who are sustaining Dr. King’s work of building a free and just society—people who, in the words of Dr. King, “make a career of humanity.”

I thank the Diversity Advisory Council for forwarding such worthy nominations for my consideration. When I read these nominations—for the projects we’re recognizing this year and, just as importantly, for the ones we’re not—I can appreciate the extraordinary depth and breadth of the work being carried out by the people of UMB.

And so to all of you striving for justice, equity, and inclusion—to all of you illuminating the value in every life and every struggle—I offer you my sincere gratitude.

Faculty Award

[School of Pharmacy | Charmaine Rochester]

Our first award goes to a faculty member, and our deserving recipient this year is Dr. Charmaine Rochester in the School of Pharmacy.

As director of the Woman’s Missionary Union, Dr. Rochester volunteers with The Samaritan Women, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating human trafficking in the U.S. and supporting its survivors.

Dr. Rochester’s group mentors women rescued from the human trafficking trade, providing them living necessities, job skills training, and a holistic approach to recovery, reintegration, and spiritual healing. The group also educates the community about the risks and realities of human trafficking, targeting adolescents and teenagers most susceptible to being victimized.

There is great leadership at UMB on the issue of human trafficking—in our School of Social Work and in a pilot project we’ve just launched with College Park—and I believe that in working with charitable groups like Dr. Rochester’s, we can be instrumental in ending this appalling trade.

To the women marginalized by violence, isolation, and degradation, Dr. Rochester and her ministry team offer  friendship, justice, opportunity—and hope.

And I’m honored to present Dr. Charmaine Rochester the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Diversity Award. I ask Dr. Rochester and School of Pharmacy Dean Natalie Eddington to the stage.

Staff Award

[School of Social Work | SWCOS Community Schools Initiative at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School]

Our next award—reserved for a University staff member or unit—goes to the Social Work Community Outreach Service in the School of Social Work. You probably know the group better by its acronym, SWCOS.

SWCOS could be nominated for any number of its projects, but the one we’re recognizing today is its Community Schools Initiative at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School in West Baltimore. The school serves 400 students. More than nine in 10 of them live in or near poverty. Many suffer the trauma endemic in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The goal of this partnership is to create a transformational—and sustainable—school culture that enables student success. SWCOS has leveraged relationships with nearly two dozen partners to focus attention and resources on priority issues, like student attendance, family engagement, and after-school enrichment. And that focus has spurred progress: A Saturday program that draws 40‒60 parents each month; an afterschool STEM program that produced a championship robotics team.

SWCOS addresses the systemic factors that jeopardize academic achievement: poverty, inequality, oppression. But the partnership is—at its core—powerfully hopeful, cultivating resilience in children and families by building on community strengths that we don’t often enough acknowledge.

For its work with James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, I’m honored to present the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Diversity Award to SWCOS and its executive director, Dr. Wendy Shaia. I’m also delighted to acknowledge James McHenry’s principal, who’s with us today—Eugene Chong Qui. Thank you for your invaluable partnership.

I ask Dr. Shaia and School of Social Work Dean Rick Barth to join me on stage. 

Student Award

[School of Law | Latina/Latino Law Students Association; Immigration Law & Policy Students Association]

And, finally, for our Student Award: We’re recognizing two student groups this year, both in the Francis M. Carey School of Law: the Latino/Latina Law Students Association and the Immigration Law & Policy Association.

The two groups are working together to ensure that unaccompanied children who’ve recently crossed the Mexican border have access to free or low-cost legal representation. The students attend immigration hearings in Baltimore, connecting with families and minors at risk of deportation. They distribute information about the judicial process and how to secure counsel. And they bring to the court’s attention issues of concern—like courtroom overcrowding or inadequate access to translation services.

With tens of thousands of minors fleeing violence and poverty in Central America—and with many of them seeking refuge right here in Maryland—this kind of advocacy is essential.

For their diligent, compassionate work on behalf of these vulnerable children and their families, I thank the Latino/Latina Law Students Association and the Immigration & Law Policy Association, and I’m proud to present them the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Diversity Award.

We have students from both groups with us today. I’ll ask their representatives, AJ Heiney Gonzalez and Anne McCabe, up to the stage, along with Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald Tobin.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” The students, faculty, and staff we recognize today—and the many more tending to Dr. King’s legacy—have a ready and affirming answer.

Could we have one more round of applause for our honorees?

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