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MLK Week Commemorative Celebration

7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 — Ruby Diamond Concert Hall

Good evening. I am so glad you could join us for Florida State University’s 28th annual celebration commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are honored to have Jelani Cobb here tonight. I want to welcome him to Florida State, and I hope he enjoys his visit.

I also want to extend a warm welcome to our guests from the community and to our FSU students, faculty and staff.

I want to thank Carolyn Harris and Brandon Bowden for chairing the MLK Week Committee, as well as the entire committee for planning this week’s events. I also want to thank the Student Government Association and the Golden Tribe Lecture Series for presenting this program tonight.

It’s important today to recognize how far we have come since Dr. King inspired us to be a better America with his “I Have a Dream” speech.

And it’s just as important to keep dreaming and working toward even better days ahead. We all have the power to make a difference every day through our words and actions.

This past year, we saw racial tensions across the country and at the University of Missouri and other college campuses. We are privileged to have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Cobb about the current state of our nation with regard to civil rights.

I want to assure you that addressing diversity and inclusion on this campus is a top priority of mine. We have made strides in improving the diversity of our student body, as well as our faculty, staff and administration, but it’s clear that we have more work to do.

The theme of this year’s celebration, “Know History, Live Our Story, Be the Legacy” is especially fitting. It’s important to take time to reflect on our past, do the right thing today, and consider the legacy we will leave.

I must tell you, I am optimistic. Our students, especially, give me great hope for our future. Today’s student leaders are an impressive and inspiring group, and they are already making their mark on the world through service and community engagement.

Dr. King famously said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and that gets right to the heart of why we hold these events at our university each year — to remind us that we have a responsibility to stand up for freedom, justice, equality and peace.

I believe that Dr. King’s legacy is alive here at Florida State, where we value each member of our diverse community. We celebrate different cultures and ethnicities and appreciate that different points of view are key to having a dynamic learning environment.

We recognize that it is up to each of us to embody these values, and that we must remain vigilant in promoting them.

And now I’d like to introduce Dr. Rhea Lathan, an assistant professor of English here at FSU. Dr. Lathan received the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her scholarship on African-American literacy and community-based activism of everyday people.

She is here to present the award to this year’s honoree. Dr. Lathan?