Pursuing MLK's Vision for America

Monday, January 17th, 2022

Dear Panther Community,

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke these words in his famous I Have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he called upon our nation to make real the promise of freedom and equality for all people. Dr. King’s philosophy of peaceful resistance inspired change, and his words and actions have taught generations that the pursuit of these core principles to democracy is a journey and not a destination. Dr. King’s words empower all of us to bring America’s promise to life. His words remind us that the preservation and advancement of society requires a shared and ever-present commitment to service for the public good.

Throughout our nation’s history, colleges and universities have served as a forum for the cultivation, exchange, and debate of ideas for the purpose of addressing the critical issues of the day. A recent Lang Hall exhibit showcased the rich history of trailblazers who visited UNI while creating positive change. On November 11, 1959, Dr. King spoke to a packed house in Lang Hall Auditorium about his movement of non-violent resistance and discussed the Montgomery, Alabama, Bus Boycott. Twenty-five years later, UNI welcomed Coretta Scott King to reflect on her husband’s work and emphasized the importance of non-violence as a catalyst for social change. Booker T. Washington (1911), Maya Angelou (1978), and many other luminaries have also spoken in Lang Hall as they shaped America through their work. To this day, UNI serves the important function of welcoming dialogue to support informed and engaged citizenship and service.   

Colleges and universities also hold the responsibility to serve the community for the urgent pursuit of the public good. Every day, many of our faculty, staff, and students engage in the work of realizing Dr. King’s dream for freedom and equality. Our campus community is engaged in economic and workforce inclusion initiatives across the Cedar Valley. We work alongside community leaders to improve health outcomes for those living in poverty. Today, we are partnering with hundreds of our neighbors to pack backpacks with nutritious food items for children who experience food insecurity as part of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s BackPack Program. Acts of service big and small are at the heart of Dr. King’s vision for America, and they are fundamental to living our values at UNI.

Today’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, inspiring contributions to society provides opportunity for self-reflection and service. UNI exists to enrich lives, communities, and the world through our students, faculty, and staff. Be empowered through acts of service big and small to create positive change in your homes, workplaces, and communities each and every day.

Panther Proud!
Mark Nook
President