King's vision offers a response to our current strife

Dear WMU community,

The horrifying violence that recently took place at our nation’s Capitol was designed to prevent the certification of election results and has left us shaken and concerned for the future of our democracy. The peaceful transition of power, respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of the seat of our government have all been diminished by the actions of the rioters. We are united in our abhorrence of such destructive actions. Together we can repair the damage and restore our democracy’s vigor, but to do so requires us to speak and act to keep it alive. We should also heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish as fools.”

Our democracy rests upon the free exercise of the right to vote and the respect for the outcome, even when we may personally consider the outcome to be unfavorable. Dr. King saw the centrality of the ballot to efforts to improve the lives of African Americans. In his 1957 “Give Us the Ballot” speech, he said, “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind—it's made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact—I can only submit to the edict of others.”

His quest for social justice is unfinished and the promise of our democracy is yet unfulfilled. So as the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Jan. 18 approaches, I encourage you to also consider taking part. While most in-person events for this year’s celebration have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of activities are still planned in connection with the theme, “None of Us is Free Until All of Us Are Free.” This statement stands as a stark reminder that although some progress has been made around social and racial justice, the collective efforts of all members of our community are still needed if we are to achieve a more equitable society.

Please join me and other members of our community in recommitting ourselves to this critical work. Whether you take part in one or more of the activities—spend the day taking part in a conversation to help you better understand others, read a book that challenges your thinking or perhaps watch a movie to shed a new light on history—I hope you are able to learn or participate in something that broadens your understanding on this day during which we commemorate the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Detailed descriptions of events planned for the 2021 MLK Celebration are available on the website.

Thank you for your participation in this year’s celebration, honoring the legacy of Dr. King and the progress we are striving to achieve in our community.


Edward Montgomery