Recommitting to a common, greater good

01-16-2017

This week we celebrate the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For many of us, it’s an occasion to recommit ourselves to his vision of an inclusive and just society.

I speak frequently about MSU’s commitment to diversity—and to free speech and civil discourse—and about how those sometimes-competing values must coexist, both on campus and across a democratic society.

So, this year’s campus MLK week theme, “The Art of Nonconformity: Dissent and Civil Discourse,” is especially appropriate.

Instead of holding classes on MLK Day, MSU provides students with opportunities to reflect on King’s example and legacy. We offer a series of special events—including a student leadership conference, a march for justice, and service projects—to spark student engagement, which deepens the educational experience. We believe that service and involvement in the community are gateways to meaningful engagement with the world.

In President Barack Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago last week, he said he learned that “change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it,” and he spoke of that “radical idea, the great gift that our founders gave to us: the freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, and toil, and imagination—and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.”

Michigan State is a champion of that idea and of the supporting land-grant philosophy that an excellent education should be accessible to all. Through the years, education has proved increasingly important to securing the American dream—for ourselves and, through us, for our society.

But in the years since King famously spoke of his dream, declining investment in public higher education by the State has presented mounting financial barriers to many who seek to fulfill their dreams.

Supporting scholarships is an important way to help ease the financial burden for deserving students. Each year I have the privilege of congratulating recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Endowed Scholarship at MSU, which makes modest grants to students whose involvement outside the classroom sustains King's fight for justice and equality.

Their efforts are inspiring, and I hope they encourage you to recommit yourself to supporting student opportunity, to being an instrument of democracy, and to working for a common, greater good.

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