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MLK on love, power, justice: A message from Interim Dean Hughes

Emory University School of Law |
Martin Luther King Jr.
Public domain photo courtesy of New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).


Here in Atlanta, we feel the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy every day. We drive past Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he, his father, and grandfather preached, as well as his childhood home in Sweet Auburn. Our region is also home to the Confederate monument carved into Stone Mountain—the one Dr. King referenced in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

This Thursday, January 24, Emory Law will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the lecture, “Revisiting Dr. King’s Theory of Love, Power, and Justice.” It is based on the title of Paul Tillich’s book, which profoundly influenced Dr. King. He drew from it in his own writing, specifically in “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Our speaker is the Reverend Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr., the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership here at Emory.

Consider those enormous themes: love, power, justice.

Where are we on love, power, and justice more than 50 years after Dr. King’s death? Power is certainly always in flux, and love is something we, as a nation, could practice living out more every day. We have made measurable progress in areas of justice that were important to Dr. King: voting and civil rights, and economic equality. That work is not done, but much has been achieved since 1968 by those who believe that peaceful resistance (aided by perseverance, intelligence, and compassion) can effect change. Dr. King’s daughter and Emory Law alumna, Dr. Bernice King 90L 90T, is among those who continue his work.

Upholding the rule of law is one of the most effective ways to ensure justice. Our system of government is founded upon it, and has served us well for centuries. While our democracy was not and is not perfect, it has been refined by elected officials who understand the Constitution is a living document, and many of those refinements have been proposed and argued by lawyers.

We hope you will join us this Thursday in Gambrell Hall at 6 p.m.—in this place where we hope to educate lawyers to become agents of change—and be reminded of how love, power, and justice can work together for us all.

Best wishes for the year ahead,


James B. Hughes, Jr.
Interim Dean