Message from Dr. Tony Allen on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
“… the existence of justice for all people.” — Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 18, 1956
To the University community,
Today I write to you on MLK Day not from my campus office, but from Washington, D.C., where my role as Chief Executive Officer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee requires me to be. I am both humbled and proud to be playing a small part in helping to launch the Biden-Harris Administration. It is a critical new chapter in our nation’s history – one where two outstanding public servants will begin restoring national unity, tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, and rebuilding America’s economy.
The events of the past several months that crystalized with unsettling clarity during the insurrection on January 6 make Dr. King’s mission and message more critical to our grand experiment in self-government than at any time since 1968. Our democracy is not guaranteed. It must be cherished, preserved and sometimes vigorously fought for in a key moment of truth – one like ensuring and certifying a free and fair Presidential election.
I do not know what Dr. King would have done or said in this moment, but we all know that the core of Dr. King’s agenda has always revolved around service, love, and nonviolence. Contrary to the cursory reviews of his life, these attributes are not soft or without real physical peril. They are, in fact, the critical component to the pursuit of justice for all: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
In truth, Dr. King was a radical for social justice, a harsh critic of the structural inequities of modern economics, and a tireless crusader for real change, not the phony peace of meaningless accommodation.
“If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.”
At Delaware State University, we have always asked our community to celebrate and continue Dr. King’s work through remembrance, reflection, prayer, and service. Those continue to be the watchwords of a meaningful life and the foundations of a just society.
Today, however, I call for you to participate in reunifying America on the basis of our shared dedication to the principles of equality, inclusion, and civil rights; refuse to be drowned out or cowed by the rhetoric of hate and division; and carry on with the fierce determination of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the Olympic pedestal with Peter Norman in 1968. We will continue to assimilate those ideals into everything we do, from the classroom to the streets of our hometowns.
Most important, every American — Black, White and Brown, Protestant, Muslim and Jew, young and old – should feel Dr. King’s most ardent call, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Tony Allen, PhD.