Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: Renewing and Increasing Our Resolve

Jan. 13, 2017

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: Renewing and Increasing Our Resolve
King during the 1963 civil rights march in Washington (U.S. National Archives)

From the President and Provost to the Webster University community:

This weekend, the nation will reflect on the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Here in Webster Groves, many of us at Webster University will participate in Sunday afternoon’s Webster Groves Community celebration, which includes a unity march through the town. Our own University Gospel Choir will perform at the event. Many other communities will hold similar events this weekend, and there will undoubtedly be many discussions in the media and online about Dr. King’s impact on the nation and the world.

We believe that his words and wisdom should be applied every day; in these uncertain times, his words are more prescient than ever.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. The chain reaction of evil -- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation,” Dr. King said in his 1963 book “Strength to Love.”

Hate and violence come in many forms. It can be seen in the micro aggressions that members of many minority or underserved communities face on a daily basis. It can be heard in the words of speakers who summarily categorize an entire ethnicity or faith as undesirable. It can be hateful words printed on flyers or posted on social media. It can be someone who outshouts those with whom he or she disagrees, using profanities and contempt.

At Webster University, we know that these actions and others like them are the antithesis of a Webster education, which is to hold reasoned discussions on various topics, look at the facts, analyze the interpretations of history, and reach well-reasoned conclusions. As Dr. King wrote in 1947, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”

Hateful words and actions disrespect the members of our community, belittle their identity, and attempt to shut down reasonable discussion by denigrating those who believe otherwise. The fact that we have recently experienced such an incidence in our residence halls hurts all of us and makes us personally angry. We hate the harm that has been done to an individual in our community and to our community. Yet, we know that anger and hate are not the answer.

We must engage in reasoned, intensive and critical conversations about diversity and inclusion, expressing respect for each others’ perspective and thought process. In the coming year, we will renew and increase our resolve to create a truly inclusive community through our interactions with each other, through programs and events, through new policies and practices.

We make this pledge because we must not give way to the darkness and we must break this chain reaction of hate.  What we commit to do as a community we will do and will surely succeed.  With the power of light and love on our side, we will not fail. 

Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble

Julian Z. Schuster
Provost, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

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