‘I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.’ -Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech’ (Dec. 10, 1964)
By Vanessa Abrahams, CEI Intern, and Christine Mason
In the wake of adversity, police brutality, upset race relations and social injustice in Ferguson, Missouri, the present pursuit of social change seems to mirror the strife of the Civil Rights era. As we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we reflect on a time in history where social justice and civil rights were fought for tirelessly. Now as protestors march the streets of Ferguson, Missouri supporting their truth, they might look to King’s legacy for a return to hope, peace and positivity in their community.
Today we pay homage to Martin Luther King, for his truth, vision and leadership. We also ask how we can use his positive words of truth and love, and hope and peace, to pursue the future we want for ourselves and others. How might we celebrate our truths and draw strength from King’s message? As we consider the events in Ferguson, what does unarmed truth and unconditional love mean to the future of America?
On Dec. 11, the day after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, King delivered a Nobel lecture on the “Quest for Peace and Justice.” With that lecture, he commented on the difference between our gains with technology versus the state of humankind, saying: “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” These words seem equally applicable to our schools and our world today.
In his Nobel lecture King continued, “This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all.” Given the needs in the U.S. and world today, how are your students opening their hearts and minds? Are they informed of present day concerns and actively problem solving? Are you inviting your community into your school so that as your students deepen their understanding they can dialogue with your community? How does your school support the message of inviting positivity and celebrating justice? As you answer these questions, consider also some additional steps your school might take in the context of high expectations and standards: 1) How is the quest for peace and justice embedded in your curriculum pacing guide? 2) Have teachers planned activities to promote student-parent dialogues? 3) How will you monitor progress and continue to evolve your quest for a better world?
Suggestion for School Administrators: Teachers and students could study King’s Nobel acceptance speech and follow-up Nobel lecture in light of not only Ferguson and racial justice, but also in terms of ISIS and conflicts around the world. Is there a way that technology could support this learning, discourse, and solutions?