More than 54 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered one of the most electrifying speeches of modern times as he called for an end to racism in the United States and civil and economic rights for all.

The stirring words of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” address became a defining moment of the civil rights movement in our country. The speech not only reaffirmed the moral force of the civil rights movement, it renewed the call to live up to the ideals of social justice and equality expressed in our country’s founding documents.

Perhaps most important, the speech laid the groundwork for legal reforms soon to enacted, primarily the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Yet despite progress during the past five decades in our country’s efforts to ensure equality and justice for every individual, issues of discrimination, harassment, economic disparity, and equal pay for equal work dominate the national dialogue today much they did in 1963.

Without doubt, our efforts must escalate and our progress must accelerate. Our actions must speak louder than our rhetoric.

In that vein, as we prepare to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy at all of our campuses next week, I want to call your attention in particular to the keynote address that civil rights activist Shaun King will deliver at 7 p.m. on January 18 in the CUB.

One of today’s most vocal advocates for social justice, Shaun’s work examines systematic oppression to reveal how racism continues to operate in the 21st century. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Epoch Humanitarian Award and the Hometown Hero Award from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. His speeches draw on the oratorical skills developed, in part, from the 15 years he spent as a pastor.

I believe Shaun’s address will inspire our community at large to be part of the solution moving forward. To learn more this event and many other outstanding, thought-provoking activities planned for the week on the Pullman campus, please visit mlk.wsu.edu.

I also invite you to join me in reflecting on those powerful words Dr. King delivered on August 28, 1963. And I hope you will join Noel and me in renewing your own commitment to acting on Dr. King’s dream:

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the
difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream
deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this
nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University