Students, staff and faculty came together yesterday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday 16 January. As the UK University where all students gain a UK and US degree, our US heritage is a vital element of our community.
The date also marked the first day of the new semester for undergraduates, we’d like to say a really warm welcome to new and current students at our Chiswick Park campus.
Our President and Vice Chancellor, Phil Deans, spoke about why Martin Luther King Jr Day is so important for the University, you can read his address here:
Martin Luther King Jr was an American civil rights activist and leader who played a vital role in combatting discrimination and inequality in the US through a programme of political advocacy and non-violent civil disobedience. He was awarded the Novel Peace Price in 1964. He was assassinated in April 1968, at the age of 39 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Day was inaugurated as a federal holiday in the United States by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Dr King became an advocate of non-violence, taking inspiration from a range of thinkers from Christian theologians such Reinhold Niebuhr, the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, to the India anti-colonialist and activist Mahatma Ghandi.
Dr King leaves many legacies, most markedly in the US but also around the world. The clearest and most visible is his contribution to addressing entrenched segregation and discrimination in the US and the creation of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and through his campaigning and advocacy of change to benefit African-Americans. His legacy also resides in his inspiration to millions around the world who seek to bring about change and equality through non-violence.
Why does Martin Luther King Jr Day matter to us?
For Richmond American University London, Martin Luther King Jr Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect on equity, diversity and inclusion. To look at ourselves to see what we as individuals and as groups can do to support others and to challenge inequality. The motto of Richmond is ‘Unity in Diversity’.
This aspiration is clearly reflected in the work and beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr as seen in his speeches and writings on equality and the need for progressive change. At Richmond we aspire to celebrate what makes us different, to listen to each other, and to learn about the world. It is not our desire to make everyone ‘the same’ but to better understand and accept each other. You may not agree with me – and this is good. ‘Unity in Diversity’ is not about us all having the same vision of the world – at its best is about making us better at disagreeing with each other.
In that spirit I urge you all to discuss and debate the life or Dr King today, throughout your time at Richmond, and as you move on after graduation.