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A Dream for America

Dear Colleagues/Students:

In 1963, the year that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his often-quoted “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech, unrest ruled much of the country. Black citizens, marching for equal treatment under the law, were being unfairly attacked and arrested and sometimes murdered. Almost 60 years later, our country is again fractured, and we still struggle to provide equal justice.

As we honor Dr. King today, we should recall that while, rightfully, he was sometimes filled with anger or sorrow, he never surrendered the belief that nonviolent protest powerfully shines a light on the ugliness surrounding it. The senseless acts we saw recently in the U.S. Capitol bear no such power.

What Dr. King wrote in 1963 applies: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Dr. King also understood the full potential impact of the promise of equal treatment under the law. He envisioned “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

If we hope to meet this aspiration, we must honor the U.S. Constitution and affirm the principal doctrine of our democracy—that the checks and balances of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches ensure that no person or party may trample the rights of others. By upholding the rule of law, we prove our belief that equality and justice will create the Beloved Community that was Dr. King’s aim. We are not there yet. 

Dr. King was the target of racist bile every day but still believed that, armed with love and reason, we would overcome it. As he said: “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

It is time for anti-racism, especially from those of us who grew up benefiting from privilege. That involves invoking true compassion and educating ourselves. I encourage you to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Day lecture, “Legacy and Responsibility,” which will be held on January 28, at 4 p.m., featuring Maggie Anderson, author of My Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy.*  

We begin a new term tomorrow, following what has been a fraught and, for some, a sorrowful year. As we move forward, I would remind you of how important your work is for our society. Our democracy’s future success depends upon the compassionate and just application of the rule of law in our society. Our democracy depends on you. 

Best Regards,

Dean Bobinski

*The lecture is presented by the Emory Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Emory Law; Emory College; Goizueta Business School; and Emory’s Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement.