Selected Speeches

The Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 4, 2018
School of Nursing

Good morning, everyone. It’s a somber anniversary we commemorate today—50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I thank the Diversity Advisory Council and the Office of Interprofessional Student Learning & Service Initiatives for giving us this time and space to come together and reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy.

We all know Dr. King’s famous “Mountaintop” speech, delivered the day before his death. His words prophesied his assassination the next evening. Dr. King said, “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.” Dr. King said, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we—as a people—will get to the Promised Land.”

In this room, I know there are men and women of a certain age—like me—people who remember where they were, what they were doing, when they heard the news that Dr. King had been shot. I was at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago, at the wedding rehearsal of my future brother-in-law. My wife-to-be, Andrea, was at my side. And, in an instant, all of us knew that Dr. King would not see his work fulfilled. He would not make it to the mountaintop.

And I think all of us might wonder still whether the people of this nation will ever crest that mountain, whether Dr. King’s dream will ever be fully realized, whether his deep love and profound sacrifice will ever be repaid.

We have a special guest with us this morning to talk about the life and work of Dr. King, the world we’ve inherited since his passing, and the change we must create if we are to truly honor his legacy.

I’d venture that DeRay McKesson is one of Baltimore’s best-known native sons. A civil rights activist and educator concerned with issues of innovation, equity and justice, Mr. McKesson was born and raised right here in Baltimore.

He’s worked on behalf of children and families since he was a teenager, but it was following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that he emerged on the national scene as a leading voice protesting police killings.

As a co-founder of several resistance and social justice campaigns—such as Campaign Zero, Mapping Police Violence, Resistance Manual and Our States—Mr. McKesson has harnessed social media to connect people with the information and tools they need to advocate and enact policies of equity and inclusion.

Mr. McKesson has been named one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine, and one of the “Most Influential People on the Internet” by Time Magazine. He created and hosts a popular weekly podcast—Pod Save The People—which discusses the most important issues of the week, and helps his listeners develop as thoughtful activists and organizers.

It’s an honor and a pleasure to welcome Mr. DeRay McKesson.


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