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President Summers’ message about Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Fifty years ago, as Dr. King was beginning his career as a pastor, community organizer, and civil-rights leader, the United States Supreme Court handed down its historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring that the Constitution forbids segregation in the nation’s public schools. That “separate” is not “equal” is a principle Dr. King courageously advanced in countless ways as he strove to promote equality and tolerance, hope and peace. He played a crucial role in bringing the promise of Brown to life – one of the many aspects of his legacy that endure to this day.

This past year, the Supreme Court recognized the essential educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. It affirmed the truth that, by bringing together people from different backgrounds, we benefit all students and better prepare them to serve as citizens and leaders. We can hear in the Court’s opinion echoes of Dr. King’s simple and eloquent lesson: “We must learn to live together as brothers,” he said, “or perish together as fools.”

This day reminds us that Dr. King’s tragically brief life gave us much to celebrate, and much yet to strive for. May the occasion help renew in all of us his “abiding faith in America and [his] audacious faith in the future of mankind.”