Knowing what I know about the gifts in this room, if you put them on the table, we’ll…realize the possibility of a more just America…I say to you, MIT, we need your gifts put out there one more time.

GERALD HUDSON -International Executive VP, Service Employees International Union

2010   36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration


In Memoriam

lee-osgood

Leo Osgood, Jr. (1946-2009)

2008 MLK Leadership Award
MIT Head Basketball Coach
Director, Office of Minority Education (OME)
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

"Tournament time comes. For the first time, I realized the real impact of my taking this position. Coaches came not only from the Boston area, but from all over the New England area to see this black coach at MIT. I must say that it was a real gratifying experience."

--Osgood in Technology and the Dream (MIT Press, 2001)

MIT Homepage-MLK Celebration_18 Jan 2010

MIT Homepage, 18 Jan 2010


THEME

Deploying Our Gifts for the Betterment of Humankind: What Would Dr. King Say About Us?


KEYNOTE

Gerald Hudson
Board Chairman, Emerald Cities Collaborative
International Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union


MLK LEADERSHIP AWARDEES

Melvin H. King
Senior Lecturer, Emeritus, Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)

Michael G. Johnson MCP ’97
Senior VP in Real Estate, Brick City Development Corp.

Aisha N. Walcott PhD '11
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Benjamin Mensah '11
MIT Sloan School of Management


 IN MEMORIAM

Leo Osgood, Jr. (1946-2009)
2009 MLK Leadership Award


 EXHIBIT

IAP MLK Design Seminar
"Haiti: How We Can Help"
"Where Dreams Come True"

KEYNOTE BIO

Photo: SEIU

Photo: SEIU

Gerry Hudson's outstanding commitment to labor, confronting the realities of long term care, and environmental justice spans decades. He continues to have wide-ranging impact on the fight to improve the lives of working families and their communities.

His dedication to addressing urban sprawl and the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation on low-income and minority communities informed his participation in the first-ever U.S. labor delegation to the United Nations' climate change meeting in Bali in 2007. He has served on the advisory board of the Apollo Alliance, a labor-based organization that advocates for high-quality job creation in a clean energy economy. He's also served on the board for Redefining Progress, the nation's leading public policy think tank dedicated to developing innovative public policies that balance economic well-being, environmental preservation, and social justice.

Hudson, who has served as Executive Vice President of SEIU since June 2004, leads the union's political program--ensuring that SEIU members and all workers have a strong voice to hold politicians accountable and elect candidates at all levels who stand with working families.

As a result of Hudson's previous leadership of the union's long term care work, SEIU's 580,000 long term care members are building a powerful voice in the workplace and the political arena for both themselves and for the seniors and people with disabilities they support.

He came to SEIU in 1978 from the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, N.Y., where he was a member of SEIU Local 144. Elected as executive vice president for the former-District 1199 in 1989, Hudson spent more than a dozen years supervising 1199 New York's political action, education, publications, and cultural affairs departments. During his tenure with 1199NY, Hudson coordinated the merger of the 30,000-member Local 144 into SEIU/1199. He also founded the 1199 School for Social Change - a former alternative school in the Bronx - and served as a trustee of the Local 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund, Home Care Workers Benefit Fund, and Michelson Education Fund.

Hudson also has considerable political experience. In 1996, Hudson served as political director of the New York state Democratic Party and helped lead the union's campaigns in support of Jesse Jackson's presidential efforts in New York and the successful New York City mayoral campaign of David Dinkins. He played an instrumental role in the election of H. Carl McCall, the first African American controller in New York state.

Hudson continues to help lead SEIU's efforts to win quality, affordable healthcare for all, immigration reform, and other major initiatives by strengthening the union's partnerships and alliances with community groups. He lives with his wife, Carol Joyner, and their two children, Camara and Amilcar, in Washington, DC.

MLK LEADERSHIP AWARD

Mel King, South Boston, 1983. Photo: John Goodman

Mel King, South Boston, 1983. Photo: John Goodman

Melvin "Mel" King, senior lecturer, emeritus, in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) was nominated for his longstanding activism and community development work in the Boston area, as well as for his work in developing the Community Fellows Program at MIT.

The 2010 MLK Breakfast also honored Leo Osgood, the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education, who passed away in November of 2009.

“The honor has more meaning," said Prof. King, "since it comes as we are paying tribute to Leo Osgood and the stellar role he played living and providing opportunities for hundreds to realize their dreams.”

Prof. King has long been in the forefront of community issues. As executive Director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston, he was involved in various community organization efforts and business development programs in the Boston-Roxbury area. He has been a Massachusetts state representative (1973-1982) and candidate for mayor of Boston (1983) and the US Congress.

In an attempt to share his experiences during his many years of community involvement, Prof. King wrote Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development (South End Press, 1981). The book documents the development of the Black community in Boston from the fifties to the eighties, demonstrating how black consciousness and power have developed through the struggles around jobs, housing, education, and politics. Prof. King proposes a strategy of community controlled economic development and political representation relevant to any major city.​

At MIT, he served as Adjunct Professor in DUSP and as founding director of the Community Fellows Program (CFP) for twenty-five years until his retirement in 1996. During the MLK celebrations each year, the CFP brings to MIT from 10 to 12 women and men working on issues that bear on people of color in America. Youth development, health and training are among the areas of concentration.

After retirement, Prof. King founded the South End Technology Center @ Tent City (The Tech Center), a collaborative venture between the Tent City Corporation (TCC) and MIT. SETC's fundamental purpose is to enable people to become producers of knowledge and sharers of ideas and information. The program provides free/low-cost access and training in most aspects of computer-related technology.

 

MLK LEADERSHIP AWARD

Michael Johnson MCP '97. Photo: Lillian Lew-Hailer 2006

Michael Johnson MCP '97. Photo: Lillian Lew-Hailer 2006

MIT alum Michael Johnson MCP ’97 was nominated for the MLK Leadership Award by Amy Glasmeier, head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), for bringing “energy and innovation” to local government in New York City and Newark, N.J.

Johnson is senior vice president in charge of real estate at Brick City Development Corp., a nonprofit that draws private investment to Newark."I am humbled to be recognized by MIT with an award named after a man whose efforts, convictions and faith made my matriculation at MIT possible," Johnson said.
Johnson's childhood experience as a public housing resident shaped his values, research, and work. His volunteer work-introducing junior high students in Brooklyn to the urban planning field-is part of his efforts to balance his personal values and occasionally conflicting professional obligations.

In spring 2006, a dinner series showcased the work of alumni who have made an impact. The DUSP Alumni of Color Dinner Series, which focused on how planners of color can serve minority communities, welcomed Johnson, then assistant vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. His talk focused on bringing personal values into professional work, urging students to consider place and community in selecting jobs after graduation.

Johnson's advice to DUSP students: Inspire people, and be inspired by people. Remember that planning is about building communities and enabling neighborhoods to live up to their potential.

--Adapted from MIT AA News & Views, 26 Apr 2006

MLK LEADERSHIP AWARD


Evans Ondieki, Executive Committee Member, Nairobi City County (L) with Aisha Walcott (R), mobile engineer at IBM Research-Africa. IBM Research 2015

Evans Ondieki, Executive Committee Member,
Nairobi City County (L) with Aisha Walcott (R), mobile engineer at IBM Research-Africa. IBM Research 2015

Aisha Walcott (PhD '11) is a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Walcott is "truly passionate in seeing physical environments becoming seamlessly enhanced with robotics and autonomous systems".

She is a founding member of the Academy of Courageous Minority Engineers, a professional and scholar development program for graduate students.

Her many service projects include collaborative work with institutions in Africa. She helping set up a laboratory at the Takoradi Technical Institue in Ghana through the MIT Center For Bits and Atoms (CBA) Fab Labs. As part of the 2004 MIT-AITI team, Walcott taught Computer Programming with Java and Entrpreneurship at the University of Ghana, Legon. In 2007, she worked with MIT alum Eric Mibuari and MIT's Public Service Center to collect computers and related equipment for donation to the Laare Community Technology Centre in Kenya.

Walcott was nominated for the MLK Leadership Award by at least five people for how she brings “her talent to bear in service to the world community.”

Humbled to receive the award, Walcott said her service to others is “extremely fulfilling and always a learning opportunity.” She recognized that her work has been done “with many others, including those here at MIT, out in our communities and across the globe.”

MLK LEADERSHIP AWARD

benjamin-mensah-mlk-award-2010

Benjamin Mensah '11 is a junior at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A Harlem-native, he is inspired by the work ethic and perseverance of his grandparents, who emigrated from Ghana, and determined to help develop and cultivate the potential of the countries in Africa. Mensah believes that through increased educational awareness and business literacy they can strengthen their position in the global community.

Mensah was nominated for an MLK Leadership Award for his mentoring work, both at MIT and with Project LEAD, a program for high school boys of color designed and created by Mensah and several other MIT undergraduates.

In 2011, MIT also honored Mensah with a Priscilla King Gray Award for Public Service and an Albert G. Hill Prize. He went on to earn a double Bachelor of Science in Economics and in Management Science (Finance Concentration).

Post-graduation, Mensah worked as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and is currently an MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School.


The Root put Benjamin Mensah on their 2011 Young Futurists List of 25 Innovators "to watch if you want to know where America is heading". Here he describes his work in Ghana, where he has helped develop a computer training program to improve efficiency and marketing for small businesses.

Leo Osgood, Jr. (1946-2009)

Leo Osgood, shown in a 1990 photograph. Donna Coveney, MIT News Office

Leo Osgood, shown in a 1990 photograph. Donna Coveney, MIT News Office

The 36th Annual MLK Celebration was dedicated to the memory of Leo Osgood, Jr., the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education who passed away November 11, 2009. MIT President Susan Hockfield praised Osgood for his commitment to the community.

“Leo was a guiding force behind this celebration for many years, and we are all very much the beneficiaries of his compassionate vision,” she said.

In 2008, Osgood was honored with an MLK Leadership Award for his co-leadership, with physics professor Michael S. Feld, of the MLK Committee over the past decade. Both were recognized for their instrumental roles in establishing the MLK Visiting Professor program.

A native of Charleston, S.C., Osgood came to Boston as a young boy. He received BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University in 1970. Osgood came to MIT in 1977, serving as head basketball coach and in various senior leadership roles, including director of the Office of Minority Education, until his retirement.


Remembering Leo Osgood [excerpts]
Anna Babbi Klein, Communications Manager
Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education

February 3, 2010

[Osgood's] legacy has many dimensions through which run consistent themes of leadership, caring, tenacity and inspiration. Leo was passionate and thoroughly engaged in fostering the development of underrepresented students, faculty and staff at MIT.

In his many roles at MIT, Leo had a profound impact on the students, faculty and staff with whom he worked. As we prepare to honor his legacy, we share the reflections and memories of his colleagues and former students as well as Leo’s own reflections on his experience at MIT.

 

Leo discussing MIT’s commitment to diversity in The Tech [1996]:

I think we have come a way down that road but we still have a long way to go. As we move to the 21st century the demographics show a society with people from diverse backgrounds in the work force. College is a good place for people to learn to work with people of different social and economic backgrounds and feel comfortable working with them.

Leo reflecting on his twelve years as Dean on Call in 1999, Tech Talk:

When I was appointed the dean on call, my personal goal was to make sure that students who were having difficulty at MIT had a dean they could call during the day, nights and on weekends to discuss their problems and issues, no matter how small or large they seemed. It has been a very demanding but wonderful 12 years, and I leave with the thought that I made a difference in people's lives and a significant contribution to the MIT community during my tenure as the dean on call.

Leo talking with Dr. Clarence Williams [ed.] in Technology and the Dream (MIT Press, 2001):

Question: What advice would you give to young blacks coming in [to MIT]?

One, I think that you have to be well grounded in yourself and have confidence in yourself to do things. That’s number one. Two, you have to develop an infrastructure of colleagues who are going to be able to support you and understand what your goals are. Three, you really have to make a commitment to work hard.

On Leo’s first basketball tournament as Head Basketball Coach at MIT:

Tournament time comes. For the first time, I realized the real impact of my taking this position. Coaches came not only from the Boston area, but from all over the New England area to see this black coach at MIT. I must say that it was a real gratifying experience.

Leo discussing the impact of the MLK Visiting Professor Program in The Tech, 2003
[Leo co-chaired MIT's Martin Luther King Jr. Committee as it conceived and initiated the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholars Program]:

It has created a presence of minority faculty on campus. Underrepresented minorities have interacted with them. It has been a win-win situation for the entire community. We have a long way to go. The core of minority faculty [are] retiring in the next 10 years and we have not done a good job to feed the system. There have been improvements, but it’s still not where it should be.

Chuck Vest
MIT President Emeritus
2006 MLK Leadership Award

In his frequent role as MIT’s “dean on call,” Leo had to respond to serious emergencies and deal with some of the most troubling issues that inevitably arise in a community of 10,000 students. He did so with common sense, compassion, fortitude, and professionalism. This was a role that was seldom seen or even understood by the larger community, but those of us who did know, deeply appreciated it and greatly respected him for it.

On a personal note, I also want to salute Leo’s leadership within the community of African-American administrators. He was deeply committed to the quality of this group, and to expanding it. If opportunities or tensions arose, I could always count on Leo for straightforward, honest advice and counsel. Leo was a good man, and I am among the legions who will miss him.

Deborah Liverman
Associate Director, Global Education and Career Development Center
2009 MLK Leadership Award

Leo advocated strongly for every underrepresented student who attended MIT.  He challenged them to not only graduate from here, but to leave with the highest marks possible.  He even challenged them to think beyond their original thoughts of what they would do after MIT and how they, as an individual, would make a difference in this world.

Professor Leo Osgood, Dean of the Office of Minority Education, coaches a player during Tuesday's game against Clark University. Photo: Thomas R. Karlo, The Tech 1995

Professor Leo Osgood, Dean of the Office of Minority Education, coaches a player during Tuesday's game against Clark University. Photo: Thomas R. Karlo, The Tech 1995

PJ Sallaway ’97, MEng '97

Coach, as myself and countless others knew him, was a major influence on my life as he coached me during my first 3 years at MIT. As a young man, Coach’s strength and lessons went well beyond basketball, helping me develop into the person I am today. I will always remember Coach and am eternally grateful. Please know that although Coach is no longer with us in body, his influence lives with myself and many, many others.

Mary Callahan
MIT Registrar

Leo treated members of the MIT community like family.  He was kind, welcoming, demanding, and caring.  He encouraged you to do your best and wanted to help you achieve your dreams.  He understood MIT and what it takes to be a success here.  While at times he could be tough, ultimately, he had big heart.  His memory will live on in many of us.

Ivette Johnson
Former Student Director, Office of Minority Education

I will always remember Coach Leo fondly from my days in the Office of Minority Education at MIT. He was a great leader but an even better individual – he was always so concerned about the students’ well-being, something I will never forget.

Rosalind Williams
Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology
Former Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs

His goal was to make MIT more welcoming for all students. He did all he could to help individual students succeed in a demanding environment. He did this both through improving MIT services and also through quiet but often decisive counseling and mentoring. Leo enjoyed working with young people and they enjoyed and valued him. Although he has passed on, there are countless MIT students for whom Leo will always be a vital presence, in their hearts and heads.

Candace Royer
Associate Director of Development/Athletics (DAPER)

Leo was a caring and excellent teacher.  I taught with him in the sport of tennis. He was always prepared and sought to have the students get to know each other, rather than just come to class.  I really admired that about Leo.  He truly cared about the students, their learning process, and developing community at MIT.

Ann Davis Goodrum
Former Assistant Dean, Office of Minority Education

I am a privileged and honored member of the troop who shared numerous years in Leo’s inner sanctum.  We knew Leo’s sensitive, caring, and susceptible nature along with his outwardly detached side that administered in the midst of facts, data, and specifics.  Friends, students, and alumni will reminisce about Leo as Coach Osgood or Dean Osgood.  Like me, some will reminisce and say aloud “That was Leo and we miss his tenacity, commitment, resolve, and devoted friendship.”

Guillermo Chicas ‘03

I was one of the fortunate students to have Dean Osgood as my freshman advisor. My first semester at MIT was a tumultuous time and I was often lost and looking for answers that Dean Osgood so willingly provided. Specifically, Dean Osgood stood up and defended my talent in front of the Committee on Academic Performance when no one else believed in me. I was able to graduate in 4 years thanks to his encouragement and support. Thank you Mufasa. The impact you made in the lives of your students will never be forgotten.

Gerry Baron '85

Dr. Osgood was one of the people on the MIT administration who helped me to navigate the challenges that I faced. I was able to work with him more closely my last 2 years when I was a tutor, then the director for Project Interphase. He was very patient and understanding. I pray God’s peace and comfort for all the loved ones who are mourning his passing.

Mike Duffy '92, SM '94
Former MIT Assistant Basketball Coach

I was fortunate to both play for Coach Osgood ('88-92) as well as coach for him (92-94). He was as good as it gets. Like many of his ex-players, I appreciated him more and more as I got older, especially off the court. While he certainly had a number of "Leoisms" on the court, it is how he impacted my life off the court that I remember most. The number of lives he has touched and influenced is countless and he will be missed.

Bob Ferrara '67 (with help from Ray Ferrara ’67)
Former MIT Basketball Player
Senior Director for Strategic Planning, Communications and Alumni Relations

Like today, MIT fans were very good then also, and turned out en masse for the big game our senior year against Northeastern at Rockwell Cage. On Northeastern’s first possession Leo blew right by me for a layup. I chased him but had to stop before I ran smack into President Johnson and the others in the first row. Leo could move anywhere, in any direction, including vertically. Though only 5’ 10”, he could comfortably dunk!

David Steel PhD ’9
Former Manager of the MIT Men's Basketball Team

In our years together at MIT, I learned so many things from Leo. I would not be the person I am today without his guidance. He cared so much about people and always tried to instill a sense of confidence and responsibility in those he worked with. His zest for life will live on in all of us who treasure our memories of him.

"Haiti: How We Can Help"

Students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. design seminar are collecting donations for the relief effort in Haiti as part of an installation in Lobby 10. Photo: Vibin Kundukulam, The Tech 2010

Students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. design seminar are collecting donations for the relief effort in Haiti as part of an installation in Lobby 10. Photo: Vibin Kundukulam, The Tech 2010

New class offerings on Haiti Project-based courses focus on providing aid

By Ziwei Hao, The Tech
February 12, 2010

In response to the Jan. 12 earthquake, MIT has offered classes focusing on Haiti and how students can help. The Martin Luther King Jr. Design Seminar (17.920) over IAP created a Lobby 10 display and this spring.

The MLK Seminar, led by Tobie Weiner from the Department of Political Science and selected student facilitators, is an IAP design seminar following the ideals of equality voiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the past decade, the MLK seminar class has grown from a small group of 10 to a class of 150 students that carries out various projects every January.

This year, several students decided to construct an installation on Haiti after an earthquake had devastated the country. Their display shows pictures of victims after the catastrophe, a model of the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince that had been destroyed in the earthquake, and informative pamphlets on the history and current crises in the country.

“I’m really big on community service,” said Jacob K. Wamala ’12, one of the students who worked on the Haiti installation. “Our visual installation raises awareness for the tragedy and provides background information on Haiti.”

In addition, the group planned a Haiti Relief Diversity Dinner this past Tuesday, February 10 in Walker Memorial to raise funds for the Partners in Health Relief Efforts.

“We want to focus on MIT’s unique capacity to help those in need,” said Joseph Diaz ’09. “We had a high turnout for this event and had raised about $1,000 in just one night.”

The MLK seminar was originally started to create a small art project honoring Dr. King, Wiener said, but it became a whole 12-unit class, and a way for student from diverse backgrounds to meet each other.

Ever since, MIT and Wellesley students have worked together each IAP to create artistic and political installations in Lobby 7 and Lobby 10 to express their thoughts on civil rights, justice, race, and the principles of Dr. King.


Where Dreams Come True


 

Cameras were installed in Lobby 10 to watch the Martin Luther King, Jr. seminar exhibit, a frequent target of vandalism. It is unclear how long the cameras will remain or how long the recorded footage will be retained. Nicholas Chornay, The Tech 2010

Cameras were installed in Lobby 10 to watch the Martin Luther King, Jr. seminar exhibit, a frequent target of vandalism. It is unclear how long the cameras will remain or how long the recorded footage will be retained. Nicholas Chornay, The Tech 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit monitored for vandalism
Lobby 10 cameras are two of many installed at MIT

By John A. Hawkinson, The Tech
February 23, 2010

To monitor vandalism against this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit, surveillance cameras were installed two weeks ago in Lobby 10. The cameras are not actively watched, but the video is stored, the security office said.

One camera is installed above the east entrance to Lobby 10, and the other is above the west entrance. MIT has not responded to inquiries about whether these cameras are permanent, when they might be removed, what policies control access to them, or how long their footage is retained.

The MLK exhibit, a student project that has been displayed Lobby 10 every February since 1999, has historically been a target of vandalism. Department of Political Science Undergraduate Administrator Tobie F. Weiner, who organizes the exhibit as part of the IAP MLK design seminar (17.920), said that the cameras were installed by the campus police on behalf of the seminar.

Weiner said that to have the cameras installed, she worked with Thomas W. Komola, manager of MIT’s Security and Emergency Management Office; with Director of Facilities Operations and Security John DiFava, who oversees the Campus Police; and with Captain Jay A. Perault of the Campus Police. DiFava did not reply to an e-mail inquiry sent Monday afternoon.

“Two wireless cameras were installed two weeks ago in the lobby of Building 10 at the request of the MIT Police, in order to capture any vandalism-related activities at the displays located there. The space is not being actively monitored, but the video will be stored in case the MIT Police need to review it in conjunction with a potential investigation,” said Komola in a prepared statement.

Komola told The Tech that he was not authorized to speak publicly. Shortly before the close of business Monday, he provided a written answer to preliminary questions that The Tech had submitted over the weekend. The answers had first been vetted by the MIT News Office.

The security office has not responded to questions yesterday from The Tech about what other portions of the campus are under video surveillance, how surveillance footage might be used in the event of a hack in Lobby 10, and what policies about retention exist.

The security office maintains a strict policy for the records of card access across campus: the data are retained for just a few weeks before being automatically deleted. There are no similar policies about surveillance footage.

Students have begun to notice the cameras as well. Yesterday afternoon, students on the Senior House mailing list mentioned the cameras and speculated that they were put there to watch the MLK exhibit.

The cameras were successful in deterring vandalism this year, Weiner said. She noted that slums exhibit was missing “some pizza boxes and empty soda bottles,” though this may have been innocent.

“I hope this isn’t an opportunity for Campus Police to keep cameras up in Lobby 10 forever,” Weiner said.

Last year, a display about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict was removed in its entirety, and a cardboard cutout of Abraham Lincoln was replaced with a cardboard cutout of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.

The exhibit was also vandalized multiple times in 2007, as well as in prior years.

In a Nov. 2007 survey of campus video cameras, Komola told The Tech he thought the lack of policy and accounting for cameras on campus was a real problem. He added that the faculty and administration needed to be approached on these issues, but there were no concrete plans for improving the situation. Since then, repeated casual inquiries directed at the security office have found there has been no progress on such a policy.

In the survey, The Tech reported that the Department of Chemistry maintained a comprehensive array of 30 cameras throughout Building 18, as well as a handful of cameras in departmental space in Buildings 4 and 18, and also that the Department of Mathematics maintained four cameras within Building 2.

Speakers ask MIT community members to spread the Institute’s unique gifts

Morgan Bettex, MIT News Office
February 5, 2010

Hundreds of members of the MIT community gathered Thursday at the annual breakfast celebration to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to reflect on the importance of using the Institute’s gifts to serve what President Susan Hockfield called the “highest human purposes of connection, compassion and kindness.”

Titled “Deploying Our Gifts for the Betterment of Humankind: What Would Dr. King Say About Us?,” the event highlighted the gifts—in the form of creativity, innovation and problem-solving abilities—that MIT bestows on its students, faculty and staff, and on the imperative that they be used for the greater good.

“MIT itself is a gift, one that we have a duty to use, in service to the world,” Hockfield told a crowded Walker Memorial. Still, much work remains in order to bolster the value of that gift, she said.

“As wonderful a gift as the Institute may be, intrinsic to its value, and our understanding of its value, is a perpetual striving to be ever better,” Hockfield said.

Keynote speaker Gerry Hudson, the international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest growing labor union with more than 2.2 million members, echoed that call, imploring audience members to use their gifts to “try to realize the possibility of a more just America.”

“Knowing what I know about the gifts in this room, if you put them on the table, we’ll get there,” said Hudson, who has been involved with MIT for about five years. Hudson recalled his work with J. Phillip Thompson, associate professor of urban politics in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and other MIT faculty and students in New Orleans on the rehabilitation of public housing after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.

‘The real King message’

In November 2008, Hudson and Thompson, as well as Joel Rogers of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy and a number of national partners, including MIT’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), co-founded the Emerald Cities Partnership to advance “fair opportunity, shared wealth and democracy” in the nation’s cities, according to the organization’s website.

Hudson explained that although King inspired him to become a labor organizer, he had declined to speak at King celebrations in recent years because he did not recognize the King he “knew and loved” in the speeches he heard at these events. Hudson agreed to speak at MIT because “I think you get it, the real King message.”

Watch video of the 2010 MLK celebrations on TechTV

He spoke about King’s rarely quoted “If the Negro Wins, Labor Wins” speech, given before an American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organization convention in 1961. During the address, King explained that his vision for America’s future was not only about civil rights but, more broadly, about freedom and jobs. Hudson believes it was the failure of the labor movement to respond to this speech and join King’s call to action that “gave rise to an ugly politics that has swept this country for more than 40 years,” and that contributed to income inequality.

It was in 2008 when President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination that Hudson was persuaded that “maybe, just maybe” his generation had picked up the baton that had been passed from King’s generation. A year after Obama’s inauguration, Hudson expressed frustration over what he said was a lack of progress on healthcare or labor law reform — and made clear his belief that it takes more than a president to bring about significant change.

“I say to you, MIT, we need your gifts put out there one more time,” he said. “It won’t happen unless you put them on the table.”

Building on a tradition of excellence

In addition to the speakers, Thursday’s breakfast featured passionate performances by the MIT Gospel Choir and Jermaine Tulloch, a guest soloist from the Harlem Gospel Choir.

Recent Rhodes Scholar winner Ugwechi Amadi, a senior majoring in brain and cognitive sciences and literature, moderated the celebration, which was dedicated to the memory of Leo Osgood, the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education who passed away in November. Hockfield praised Osgood for his commitment to the community.

“Leo was a guiding force behind this celebration for many years, and we are all very much the beneficiaries of his compassionate vision,” she said.

Citing that vision, the president stressed that there was room at MIT for improvement to harness the tools of modern technology and science to bring about more change. She called the recently released report from the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity a “constructive tool” to help MIT fully tap into and strengthen its gifts, while upholding its nearly 150-year-old tradition of excellence.

The product of 2-1/2 years of research and analysis by a team of nine MIT faculty members, the report concluded that while MIT’s efforts to hire and retain under-represented minority (URM) faculty have produced some gains in recent years, the results are uneven across the Institute, and that more effective policies and practices are necessary. Moreover, the study said the experience of URM faculty at MIT can be different from that of their majority peers, and that MIT must do more to foster a culture of inclusion.

Hockfield said she disagreed with the notion that the report’s findings and recommendations might “somehow threaten to erode or compromise the excellence of MIT.” asserting instead that the report “is not about compromising those standards — it is about reaching them.”

Hockfield praised the report for offering practical steps to accelerate positive change, and she noted that Provost L. Rafael Reif and Paula Hammond ’84, PhD ’93, the Bayer Professor of Chemical Engineering who led the committee that prepared the report, have already begun strategy meetings with Academic Council, school councils and the heads of academic units.

In addition to the report and its recommendations, Hockfield pointed to another example of MIT using its gifts to serve the world, acknowledging the efforts of students, faculty and the Public Service Center in responding to last month’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.

One of those students, Dylon Rockwell, a junior majoring in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, spoke about his concern that even though he helped raise thousands of dollars through his involvement in MIT’s Jan. 29 Haiti Relief Benefit Showcase, it might not be enough.

“What would Dr. King say about me?” Rockwell asked. “What would Dr. King say about MIT?”

Zenzile Brooks, a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke of another gift widely abundant at MIT: talent. She said she recently embraced her gift for playing the piano after an organizer from her church told her she had a responsibility to use that gift, much like King had a responsibility to use his gift to organize for change.

“You say thank you, and you use it,” Brooks said, noting that “sparks really begin to fly” when MIT community members combine their individual gifts with the larger gift of MIT. “We are obligated to put this gift to good, good use.”

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