1995 21st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
The Trumpet of Conscience: Dr. Martin Luther King's Contract with America
Chief judge emeritus, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Public Service Professor of Jurisprudence, Harvard University
MLK Leadership Awardees
The Trumpet of Conscience features five lectures that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered in November and December 1967 for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Massey Lectures. Prior to King’s assassination, the book was released under the title Conscience for Change through the CBC. After King’s death in 1968, the book was republished as The Trumpet of Conscience, and included a foreword written by Coretta Scott King. The book reveals some of King’s most introspective reflections and his last impressions of the movement.
First MLK Professor
MIT News | February 15, 1995
Political Science Professor Richard A. Joseph of Emory University in Atlanta is the first to be named a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor.
The new program was proposed last year by the Martin Luther King Committee, co-chaired by Professor Michael Feld of physics and Dean Leo Osgood of the Office of Minority Education.
Provost Mark S. Wrighton announced the appointment Friday at a breakfast hosted by President Charles M. Vest and Mrs. Vest in connection with MIT's 21st annual celebration of Dr. King's life. The two-year appointment begins in September.
Professor Joseph works closely with the Carter Center in Atlanta, the organization of former President Jimmy Carter.
The provost also noted that Professor Marcus A. Thompson, recently appointed the first Robert R. Taylor Professor at MIT, would perform at the MLK celebration later in the day. Professor Thompson, a noted violist, holds a chair MIT created last year to honor the Institute's first African-American alumnus, who graduated in 1892.
Youth Conference Speeches
6th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. 'Youthworkers Coming Together Realizing the Dream' Conference
Student Group Leaders Speak on the Legacy of Dr. King
The Thistle, Vol. 9, Iss 9.02
Reported by Kristen Nummi Nummerdor
Friday, February 10, marked the beginning of MIT's annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The events began in the morning in Lobby 7, where a number of student group representatives spoke about Dr. King's legacy and the challenges that we still face today in our struggles for equality.
At noon, Charles and Becky Vest, Leo Osgood, and A. Leon Higginbotham led marchers four abreast across Massachusetts Avenue to Kresge Auditorium, where Higginbotham was to give his keynote address: "Trumpet of Conscience: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Contract With America." In addition to Higginbotham's address, MIT awarded five MLK Leadership awards. Two of the awards were presented to individuals: to Cynthia R. McIntyre, Ph.D. for her efforts in organizing a national conference for black physics students, and to Professor Robert W. Mann, for his work in biomedical engineering. Three organizations were also presented with awards: the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) for the work their groups did organizing a minority career fair.
Events continued over the weekend; the sixth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Youthworkers Coming Together Realizing the Dream Conference was held in the Stratton Student Center from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning. Topics included: focus on the cultural context of our work, monoculturalism vs. multiculturalism, and whether we need a new Panther Party, to name but a few.
Student Group Speeches
The following are excerpts from the student group speeches presented in Lobby 7 on Friday morning. The speeches were coordinated by Brima Wurie, assistant to the Deans in the Counseling and Support Services and International Students' Office.
La Union Chicana por Aztlan [García read excerpts from King's "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail."]
"Nearly three decades have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his letter from the Birmingham city jail. Yet in many areas around this country, justice is still being delayed, still being denied. (For some of us, it's been a 500 year wait.) Like Martin Luther King's dream, I too hope that one day my very own children will be judged on the content of their character. How many more generations will pass through these corridors before this dream is a reality?"
Teresa W. Lau
Coordinator, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals,and Friends at MIT and founding member, Asian Pacific American Caucus
"The challenge for us, as I see it, becomes a question of how to build on Dr. King's ideas and work around equality for African Americans, to expand those concepts and those analyses to address the complexities of inequality as we know it to be. The struggles of today, the struggles I find myself in the midst of, require that we pay attention to the many levels and manifestations and sources of oppression in our society. Along gender lines, class lines, over sexual preference and now citizenship status with the passing of Proposition 187, we are being divided, and then conquered. An example that comes to mind is the way that, 2 years ago, African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans were pitted against each other with myths and stereotypes, so that by the end of the LA riots, we could hardly see clear of all the media images and propaganda to even begin finding each other as allies. It's things like that that pain and frustrate me the most: when I see men of color perpetuating misogyny and sexism, when I see the poor and working class people supporting anti-immigrant legislation, when I see queer people voting against affirmative action. When things like that happen, we are only perpetuating the system of oppression that keeps us all down. And really, we should know better. We should know better than to buy into the kind of injustice and inequality that Dr. King and the civil rights movement of the sixties challenged and began mobilizing against. As we move into the future and continue the struggle, we have to see each other as the allies we could be, rather than as competitors for whatever small piece of the pie we think we're getting. We must take what the past can teach us, and use those lessons to help each other to survive and overcome the oppression that Dr. King fought against. It is up to us to continue the struggle, and particularly, to pay attention to our histories as we do the work of creating our future."
S. Todd York
President, American Indian Science and Engineering Society
"What does it mean to be a Native American? Our lives are not those in Dances With Wolves of even in F Troop. We are three groups of people, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. What we have in common is our culture. Our respect for the land and all of its creatures and our connectedness to family.
"We are a unique group because we possess a dual citizenship: America, and our respective tribe. In a time when our sovereignty is being scrutinized by the Republican Right, we must demand that our sovereignty be kept no matter what the cost in order to maintain our culture.
"What does all of this have to do with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you might ask? From the teachings of Dr. King, we must demand freedom from our oppressors, this sovereignty is essential to our survival and freedom."
President Interfraternity Council
"Dr. King also said, 'I'm here, taking a stand, and I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.' And he was exactly right. There is no reason for him, or for anyone, to have to stand alone against prejudice or discrimination in any form. To honor his memory, and his achievements in life, all we have to do is give. Give away our fears, and our hatred, and our ignorance. And help others give away theirs. When all of us feel the cut of a crude joke, and feel hurt when we see another person discriminated against, then we are on the path towards equality."
Sheldon W. Myrie
Political Actions Chairperson, MIT Black Students' Union
"Dr. King showed how closemindedness benefited no one and that closemindedness made a society overlook the obvious and important fact that we are all human beings. Through peaceful resistance and protest Dr. King not only led Blacks but led the nation to believe that the 400 years of injustice and brainwashing have caused massive apathy in America when concerned with the issues of human and civil rights. Unless we endeavor to challenge what we are conditioned to believe, all will remain in apathy and remain in ignorance."
MIT Hillel [Wolfe read inspirational passages from figures in Black and Jewish history. One excerpt is included below.]
"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because, in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again." [Anne Frank]
Higginbotham Discusses Race Relations, GOP Contract
The Tech | February 14, 1995
By Daniel C. Stevenson, Editor in Chief
Leo Osgood, director of minority education, President Charles M. Vest, A. Leon Higginbothm Jr., and Becky Vest participate in the traditional march from Lobby 7 to Kresge Auditorium on Friday, [February 10, 1995].
As a student at Purdue University in the early 1940s, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. lived in an unheated dormitory attic with 12 other black students. When he protested to the university's president about the harsh conditions, he was told that "the law doesn't require us to have you."
Exasperated, Higginbotham later transferred to Antioch College, earned a law degree from Yale University, and went on to become a distinguished jurist and legal scholar.
Higginbotham related his experience at Purdue in the keynote address at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Friday. In a talk entitled "Trumpet of Conscience: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Contract with America" he spoke of the Republican party's Contract with America and how it might affect race relations.
This year marked the 21st MIT celebration of the life and work of King, who was killed 27 years ago this April. Higginbotham also spoke at the celebration 13 years ago.
FIRST LEADERSHIP AWARDS BESTOWED
The events began in Lobby 7 with speeches about King's life by representatives of the Interfraternity Council, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Hillel, La Union Chicana por Aztlan, the Black Students' Union, and Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends.
At noon, President Charles M. Vest led the traditional march from Lobby 7 to Kresge Auditorium.
This year's celebration marked the inaugural presentation of the MLK Leadership Awards to two individuals and three organizations. The first recipient, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering Robert W. Mann, was honored for his landmark work in biomedical engineering.
Cynthia R. McIntyre PhD '90 received the award for organizing a national conference for black physics students while a graduate student at MIT. "The conference was a resounding success, and has since become an annual event, held at different universities around the country," Vest said.
The awards for organizations went to AISES, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for their joint sponsorship of a career fair.
The three groups "show by example what can be done when different groups work together for common goals," Vest said.
Vest introduced Higginbotham as "a true friend to MIT," referring to his work on behalf of the Institute in the Overlap case, where several universities were accused of violating antitrust laws by meeting each spring to discuss financial aid packages for students.
Just months after retiring, Higginbotham joined MIT's attorneys and argued before his former court on behalf of the Philadelphia school system, the Urban League of Philadelphia, and a coalition of bar associations of Hispanic, Black, and Asian American attorneys in the Philadelphia area.
"These groups are the counsel for the interests of those bright and very needy students who would be most adversely affected" if need-blind admissions were eliminated, Higginbotham argued. Speaking at MIT was a chance "for me to say to a school that has treated students better than [Purdue] treated me, that 'You are on the right track.' "
Higginbotham framed his address as a message from King to Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) about the latter's Contract with America. The contract "may very well be one of the most tragic hopes and potential cruelties" in American politics, Higginbotham told the audience in Kresge Auditorium.
Higginbotham told Gingrich, "It is within your power to make our nation more fair than it has been in decades, or to make it more mean."
"What scared me so much" about the contract, Higginbotham said, was that "not once do you say that you want to eradicate racial discrimination. Not once do you say that you want to eradicate gender discrimination."
"Today, many African-Americans and other persons of good will are hoping that your Contract with America will not constitute a denial of justice to the weak, the poor, the powerless, and minorities," Higginbotham wrote in December.