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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture at Harvard

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture at Harvard

The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture at Harvard aims to recognize individuals who through their dedication to activism, advocacy, scholarship, or service have made an indelible contribution to advancing justice and equality.

Freeman A. Hrbowski III

This year’s honoree

Freeman A. Hrabowski III

Freeman A. Hrabowski III is nationally celebrated for his leadership in developing a national educational model for students from diverse backgrounds to excel in STEM.

As president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he served from 1992–2022, he cofounded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, now a model for colleges nationwide. In 2022, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute launched the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program to help build a scientific workforce that more fully reflects our increasingly diverse country.

At an early age he participated in the Children’s Crusade during the Civil Rights Movement, which inspired his life’s work.

Freeman A. Hrabowski III will give his lecture on
Wednesday, October 12, at 6 p.m. in Sanders Theatre.

Learn more about Freeman A. Hrabowski III

Those of us who are privileged to work and learn at Harvard must model the behavior we want to see in the rest of the world.

I hope you share my enthusiasm about creating a new way for Harvard to participate in a critical and ongoing national conversation about racial justice, equity, and opportunity. I look forward to gathering with you to welcome our inaugural King Commemorative Lecturer later this year.”

Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University

President Bacow speaks at a podium
Martin Luther King Jr.

Explore Martin Luther King Jr.’s original speech

In his 1962 speech, Martin Luther King Jr. called for strong, forthright civil rights legislation, and refuted what he called the myth that time and education were the only ways to bring about change. “It may be that the law cannot make a man love me,” he said, “but it can keep him from lynching me.”


Speaker 1: In 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., soon to be Nobel Peace Prize laureate, delivered a speech to the Harvard Law School Forum.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: And we’ve been able to say to our bitterest and most violent opponents, we will match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot, in all good conscience, obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil, as Thoreau would say, is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

And so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children and bomb our homes and we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half-dead, and we will still love you. This will be a great day. This will be that day when all of God’s children all over this nation will be able to join hands. All men, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, and in the joining of those hands, they will be able to cry out and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God, Almighty. We are free at last.”

Learn more about King’s visit to Harvard

The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging is now accepting nominations for next year. All members of the Harvard community are invited to submit a nominee for the 2023 lecture. Nominees do not need to be a member of the Harvard community; individuals from a range of disciplines and backgrounds are welcome. Nominees should embody the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of civic leadership.