Suzy Nelson kicks off Martin Luther King Jr. Week

(Note: The following are Dean of the College Suzy Nelson’s prepared remarks for the Opening Ceremony of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week of Events.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s opening ceremony, celebrating the important work of the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before I begin, I want to express my gratitude to Dean Thomas Cruz-Soto, Sarah Ellis, and all of the staff in the ALANA Cultural Center, along with the planning committee. These folks have planned an exceptional program. Please extend your thanks.

In preparing for this week’s events, I reread some of Reverend King’s sermons, in his book, The Strength to Love. King’s words reminded me of how difficult it is to “love thine enemy.”

It is certainly easy for me to love like-minded people, people who have similar beliefs and values to my values, but it is difficult to respond with equanimity – or love – to those with whom I disagree…. And to those who perpetuate ignorance and hatred.

Dr. King’s greatest gift to me was his unwavering commitment to social justice, but justice through sustained dialogue and peaceful action. His words are as powerful and relevant today as when he first wrote and spoke them during the upheaval of the 1960.

Let no man pull you so low that you hate him. Always avoid violence. If you sow the seeds of violence in your struggle, unborn generations will reap the whirlwind of social disintegration (p. 142).

As we face violence in our communities – and abroad – it is important to take this time for reflection: How can I change myself? How can I be a catalyst for change at Colgate?

My hope is that during this week, we will be reminded to stand up for what is right, but to do so with understanding and patience with each other.

To seek peaceful means to resolving our conflicts, and in Dr. King’s words, to never “move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo.”