Tuesday January 16, 2018

The Time is Always Right

By Eric F. Spina

We’re on an ongoing journey on the road toward racial justice and equality for all. We must not falter on that journey.

Provost Paul Benson delivered these remarks on my behalf at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast in the Kennedy Union Ballroom on Jan. 16.

Good morning! I'm privileged to share the words prepared by President Spina, who is ill. I will do my best to convey his spirit.

I’m honored to be asked to say a few words on a day when the University of Dayton comes together as one to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. I am mindful of the fact that it is not just our campus community that comes together, it is our NATION that pauses today to remember the life, the legacy, and — most importantly — the righteous work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Let us remember today his strength and his courage, and ask the Lord to blesus with the strength to continue, even in our own small way, the work that remains to be done…here on campus, here in the City of Dayton, and across our country to stamp out intolerance and racism and celebrate the dignity and contributions of all members of the human race.

This morning, we’ll pause, reflect on the challenges and opportunities of our times, and renew ourselves for our ongoing journey on the road toward racial justice and equality for all.

And, I note, we do this today on the second annual “National Day of Racial Healing,” a day in which we join with Catholic colleges and universities and many other organizations and individuals across the country to recognize our collective and individual responsibility to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic, and religious bias. A day on which we are asked to consider what we can do—in ways large and small—to build an equitable and just society in which all individuals have the opportunity to thrive.

I’m humbled to share the stage with journalist and cultural historian Wil Haygood, who has chronicled America’s civil rights journey through the contemporary era. He is a storyteller for our times with a lens sharply focused on race, social justice, and history.

This morning’s theme, “A Witness to History and Our Call to Shape the Future,” reflects Dr. King’s words, “We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.” It’s a fitting theme for our campus community in more ways than one. I’d like to take just a few moments to reflect on our religious heritage and our aspirational vision.

On Chaminade Day we will close the bicentennial celebration for the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, but our journey of faith never ends. Today, more than ever, we are challenged to be peacemakers, to work in solidarity with the marginalized in our world, to serve the common good.

And we’re called to be patient and persistent in the work of social justice, in the work of bringing Christ to the world as Mary did.

In the words of Blessed Chaminade, “We must not become discouraged if we encounter some obstacle in the way of necessary change. Never has change been done and never will it be done without difficulty. With patience we will come to the end of all.”

I am committed — and know that I can also say that *we* are committed — to bring that same level of patience and persistence to fulfilling our strategic vision to become a more diverse, welcoming, and interculturally inclusive campus.

 If UD is to be truly excellent, we must increase diversity, among our students, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees. That’s not a hope or a dream, and it can’t become a “woulda” or a “shoulda” — it’s an imperative. A variety of diverse voices, backgrounds, and ideologies will enrich our learning environment and expand our institutional intelligence and creativity in ways that will allow us to confront the challenges of our times — and to shape a more just future for all.

Because of our religious heritage, because of our vision, I know we can bring diverse people together in a common mission. We canand will — prepare new generations of servant-leaders who will use their community-building skills to build real community in our world, including—and most importantly—building that community across difference.

When you walk by the University’s memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., take an extra moment to pause and reflect. The wall contains the central message of Dr. King’s speech on campus — “We have come a long way, but we have a long, long way to go.” Nearby, on the bench, you will read Dr. King’s more direct statement of urgency — “The time is always ripe to do right.”

The sculptural monument speaks to me about the importance of higher education’s daily work of educating for a highly diverse society, for justice and the dignity of each person, and for absolute inclusivity on our campuses, in our nation, and in our world. 

It’s a powerful, simple message: We’re on an ongoing journey on the road toward racial justice and equality for all. We must not falter on that journey.

Thank you!

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