Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (a pioneer and reference in the field) played a key role in organizing today’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington 50 years ago. Several alumni worked behind the scenes to create a truly memorable and emotional event, to help us remember that much more work is needed to realize Dr. King’s dream. Other alumni shared the stage with historic Civil Rights figures and thought leaders across the U.S.. I have to congratulate the entire School for playing such a role.
The day also offered me the tremendous privilege of being invited to join in the celebration. An occasion I will never forget. I confess I was so taken by the moment, by the humbling thought of being on the very spot where Dr. King delivered his speech 50 years ago, by the impressive group of intellectuals and leaders around me, by the crowded Mall, by the gorgeous summer sun (plus I was so worried that I would go over the 2 minute mark as the previous speakers had), that I decided to change my remarks in the last second and focus on one simple but crucial message: access to higher education for low income students and the children of undocumented immigrants. (watch the video on C-SPAN, fast forward to minute 11:51).
Here’s what I decided to say:
Thousands of young men and women are denied a college education every year and are shut out of the American Dream, not because they are not smart enough, not because they are not talented enough, not because they don’t want to work hard enough; but because their parents may not be wealthy enough, because they may not be American enough or documented enough.
Dr. King said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. He also said “the time is always right to do what’s right”. I say the time to break down the barriers of access to education is now.
I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for education. Most of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for education.
The American Dream, Dr. King’s Dream, is not a destination, but a never-ending collective struggle. Let’s struggle together to make sure every kid in America has the same opportunities we were once given.