Thank you all for the opportunity to join you today to honor the extraordinary life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1964, the same year that the Dr. King came to Duke to speak, he was asked to respond to the notion—already then in currency—that Black Americans should be satisfied with the progress already made toward civil rights. Dr. King bristled at this shortsighted and cynical suggestion, writing:
“A beginning sincerely made is one thing, but a token beginning that is an end in itself is quite another.”
I have been reflecting on this statement—struck both by its prescience and by its continued relevance to our work and experience here at Duke.
We are proud of the progress that we have made toward building a more inclusive university—progress that began back in the 60s with the belated integration of our student body and faculty, progress that deepened and intensified with our new focus on anti-racism in the past two years.
To be sure, we have gained significant ground. In hearing Dr. King’s call, however, we must remember that this progress is just a beginning—a sincere beginning, to be sure, but not an end in itself.
As I wrote to the community last year, the promises of equality and opportunity that define our nation will elude us unless we confront and overcome the inequities on our campus and beyond. That is why anti-racism and equity—alongside our core institutional values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence—will be vital priorities for Duke not just in this moment of change, but for many years to come.
In order for us to succeed in fostering a more inclusive culture, we know that our efforts must be serious and sustained institution-wide. And importantly, these actions have been undertaken with an eye toward promoting equity at each level of the university.
In the spirit and inspired by the example of Dr. King, we will continue our work and know that it will not be complete until there is a truly equitable, inclusive future for everyone who comes to our campus to work, study, live, or play. Thank you.