Dr. King’s legacy challenges us to serve

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

With a legacy that has withstood the hands of time and forever shaped civil rights around the world, there is so much to choose from in celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Champion of equality. Advocate of change through nonviolent means. Voice of the nation’s conscience in addressing discrimination, harassment, and economic disparity.

As we approach the national commemoration of Dr. King’s life next Monday and continue our system‑wide tributes next week, I would like to challenge all of us to reflect on a question that this towering pillar for equality once posed.

“Is your heart right? If your heart isn’t right, fix it up today.”

That simple but profound question and response calls us to take an honest look within ourselves to examine the principles that shape our opinions, influence our conversations, and guide our daily actions. It is a question Dr. King asked because he understood the corrosive effects of lives shaped by anger, resentment, and fear. Replacing those feelings with empathy and forgiveness, Dr. King argued, opens the door to achieving an inner peace that leads to a kinder, more empathetic, and just world.

What core principles guide our daily decisions and actions? Do our choices reflect a kind and sincere heart? What can we change within ourselves to help move the world toward a place in which all people are treated with dignity and respect and receive equal opportunities to pursue a life of happiness?

“Is your heart right? If your heart isn’t right, fix it up today.”

While individually we may not be able to bring compassion to the world stage, we can reinforce it continually in our day-to-day activities. We can strive to get our hearts right by focusing on kindness and goodwill, laying the groundwork for a path that guides us to just decisions that will help us confront the poverty, injustice, and ignorance that surround us.

In closing, I want to encourage you to attend the keynote presentation of our 2020 MLK Community Celebration, which will feature sociopolitical comedian W. Kamau Bell. The host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning CNN docu‑series United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, Bell will speak at 6:30 p.m. on the WSU Pullman campus. His remarks, which will be livestreamed, are certain to expand our understanding of issues related to race and racism.


Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University