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Reflecting on the Lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

As Northwestern pauses today in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we reflect on the lessons of one of history’s iconic leaders in the spirit of growth, community and service to a cause greater than ourselves.

In the scholarly tradition of truth and accountability, we honor the life, words and work of Dr. King, in particular considering an admonition he offered in a 1967 speech while addressing civil and human rights, poverty and war: “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.”

Indeed, we must always consider and interrogate our past and present policies. The University’s Dream Week Commemoration Committee has arranged a powerful series of events to contemplate these lessons in humanity.

At 3 p.m. today, we will observe the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil hosted online by Northwestern’s Alpha Mu Chapter of Dr. King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. The vigil address will be delivered by Northwestern alumnus Dr. Jeffrey Sterling, a physician, business leader and activist in community-based medicine, health care and public health.

Please also join us Monday, Jan. 24, for two keynote events with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” The project marked the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in what became the United States, examined slavery’s modern legacy and reframed Americans’ understanding of the history and contributions of Black Americans to the nation. Hannah-Jones’ lead essay was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

The first keynote, at noon, will feature Hannah-Jones in a conversation with Dr. Linda I. Suleiman and Robin Walker Sterling, from the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Pritzker School of Law, respectively. In the second event, at 5 p.m., Hannah-Jones will participate in a conversation with Charles Whitaker, dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

We encourage you to explore the full slate of programs arranged by the Dream Week Commemoration Committee.

As we prepare to return to classrooms tomorrow, we wish you peace and courage in the daily pursuit of truth, justice and equality.