Following are the remarks made by Creighton's president, the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., at the University's celebration opening a weeklong series of events celebrating the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
January 17, 2011
Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at the annual Creighton University Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration. A special welcome to today's guests and congratulations to our awardees.
I want to give special kudos to Mr. John Pierce and the entire Martin Luther King Jr. planning committee.
This is my eleventh Dr. King celebration at Creighton, and this committee has consistently done a great job in providing a suitable program honoring Dr. King. Today is no exception, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the King national holiday.
I am always grateful for this annual celebration because it provides us an opportunity to pause and reflect on Dr. King's life and his legacy; an occasion to recognize members of our campus community and the greater Omaha community who emulate Dr. King's values; and it also provides us an opportunity to reflect on our own lives, our values, and ultimately, our own legacies.
This is a time to check our direction, to benchmark how far we have come and, hopefully, to rededicate ourselves to becoming better people. One of Dr. King's most persistent questions was: What have you done to help other people?
In that simple question, Dr. King underscored all of the values that we, as a Catholic, Jesuit institution, hold sacred:
* respect for the individual
* compassion for the poor
* justice for all
* service to others.
Rev. King emphasized the importance of working together to fight injustice. As he stated so eloquently in his letter from a Birmingham jail:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
We have come a long way since Dr. King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Civil rights laws have been enacted locally and nationally, race relations have improved, we are more tolerant and accepting of other religions, we have national programs to address poverty and homelessness. Federal minimum wage laws have been enacted as well as open housing legislation.
However, we still face tremendous problems. We still have deep pockets of poverty -- the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. We face paralyzing unemployment and discrimination in access to health care. Intolerance and prejudice still exist in our communities and equality still eludes many in our society.
And so I challenge you today, as I challenge myself and this institution, to let this event be a source of renewed determination and hope as we look toward the future; working together to overcome those obstacles within us and within our society that prevent us from being one community in solidarity with each other.
I know you have all heard this exhortation time and time again, but it is worth repeating because, if nothing else, it reminds us of our responsibility to each other to work for a more just, humane and harmonious future for all of our brothers and sisters.
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King, which I recall often, is drawn from a sermon entitled "Unfulfilled Dreams." It is based on the story from Hebrew scripture of King David's failure to complete a temple for the Ark of the Covenant.
King reminds us that in the course of our lives, we all start many projects but do not necessarily finish many of them. King notes:
"Well, that is the story of life. And the thing that makes me happy is that I can hear a voice crying through the vista of time saying: it may not come today, or it may not come tomorrow, but it is well that the dream is within your heart.
"It is well that you are trying. You may not see it. The dream may not be fulfilled, but it is good that you have the desire to bring it into reality. It is well that it is within your heart."
And so it is for each of us gathered here. It is well that the dream is within your heart. Thank you for being with us today. Thank you for witnessing Creighton's commitment to build a more inclusive community and a more just and humane world. Thank you for having the intention within you.
Let me end with a favorite passage of mine from the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, to which I ofen refer in my personal reflections. Russell writes:
"I may have thought that the road to a world of free and happy human being shorter than it is proving to be, but I was not wrong in thinking that such a world is possible; and that it is worthwhile to live with a view to bringing it nearer.
"I have lived in pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times.
"Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all of its horrors, has left me unshaken."
So say I, and so lived Dr. King. Thank you.