Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 19, 2015

Interim President Scott Coltrane delivered the following remarks at the 2015 MLK Day Community March:

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 86th birthday. Yet, his words are as relevant as ever. Many throughout the country and in our campus community are outraged by the police killings of African-Americans, seemingly with no consequence. With so many peoples’ emotions reaching a boiling point, it’s imperative that we all come to the table and work towards reaching an understanding. A few weeks ago, individuals with extreme religious views killed 20 people. Violence won’t resolve these deep-seated issues.

As an academic institution, it is our duty to foster the conversation that affects not only our campus community, but also the world. Universities have historically been the epicenters for innovative ideas and a place where our future leaders develop their skills. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of those leaders. Under the tutelage of Benjamin Elijah Mays at Morehouse, surrounded by impassioned peers, Dr. King cultivated philosophies that would forever change the landscape of this country.

With recent political actions and continued campus discussions on the topics of race and police accountability, we’re seeing the emergence of the next generation of leaders. We will continue to provide the space to exchange ideas because this is how we help to shape global leaders who are deft at discussing, analyzing, and providing solutions. The University of Oregon is a place where we are not only unafraid of taking on difficult discussions, but we embrace the challenge.

In the words of Dr. King, “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.”

As a university, and together as a community, we must push each other to foster understanding, conversation, and lifelong learning. Thank you to the Eugene NAACP, the UO Division of Equity and Inclusion, City of Eugene, and all of the participants in today’s events for their role in working to achieve the reality of Dr. King’s Dream.