Update: Thanks to everyone who came out to the 3rd annual “What Would Martin Do?” event. If you missed it or simply want to enjoy it again, check out the video below.
Yesterday, we celebrated a legendary leader who challenged our nation to dream. The ADA Education Fund will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy at our upcoming “What Would Martin Do?” annual forum in Washington, D.C.
WHEN: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: Howard University
Digital Auditorium, Blackburn Center
This free forum will feature a panel of distinguished speakers addressing the question of how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., might approach critical policy issues facing the country in the 21st century. Audience participation is encouraged in a Q&A section.
- Mr. William Lucy, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
- Ms. Aisha Moodie-Mills, Advisor for LGBT Policy and Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress
- Dr. William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary of Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor
- Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus
- Mr. Steve York, Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker
The winning essay from the “What Would Martin Do?” national essay contest will also be read aloud by this year’s winner, Marc Brenman, of Kensington, Maryland. Read the winning essays here.
Here is a link to last year’s event, featured on C-SPAN: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/KingFo
“What Would Martin Do?” Essay Contest Winners:
This year the ADA Ed Fund hosted the second annual “What Would Martin Do?” national essay contest. The votes have been counted and we have our three winners:
Marc Brenman of Kensington, Maryland
Mr. President, I’m proud that you are our first African-American President. But I’m disturbed at your silence on people’s needs during these Great Recessions. You squandered your first year in office on an unpopular health plan that cost you political capital. I salute you for risking unpopularity. But other needs cried out for your attention. When you took office, you should have told the American people that your goals were two: Put Americans back to work and keep them in their houses. I understand you felt you had to save the banking industry because you feared that the economic system itself was near collapse, but you didn’t need to let it pay outrageous bonuses to its executives. I understand that you truly believe in bipartisanship, and tried to compromise with Republicans. But sometimes we must take principled positions. People are suffering.
You’ve taken some steps toward ending the interminable wars the Nation has heedlessly pursued. These are not sufficient. You promised more. You have the greatest reason to bring home our young people and our treasure—to help those in need. Mr. President, people want to work– on great things and on common things. Identify these projects; make them happen. Rebuild the electrical grid; put solar panels on the roof of every house; insulate those houses; plant trees on the south sides of those houses; keep people warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
It’s hard for a political leader to point out the hypocrisy of his opponents. But you must tell the truth. Some of your opponents have usurped the name of a revolutionary movement—the Tea Party— and take government benefits with both hands, yet want to deny them to others. Not a single Tea Party member has turned back her Social Security or Medicare. I fear they want to live in a sick and poor country, behind gates of steel. They live in gated communities and too many of our citizens of color live in a different kind of gated community—prison. Our Latino brothers and sisters who only want a better life for their children are scorned and die in this nation’s Western deserts. Toward them, the proffered solution is high and long walls.
We’ve become a nation of walls and gates and perverted notions of security. Many on the right idolize Ronald Reagan, who said “Tear down this Wall.” That wall, that Iron Curtain, did come down, but we carried it home. Mr. President, this is your opportunity to build the nation up by tearing down its barriers. In the words of the psalm, I pray that the Walls of Jericho will come tumbling down. Marching around them will not be enough. Use what you learned inside the walls of Harvard Yard and on the mean streets of Chicago. Even if you fail, you enter history as the Man Who Tried. Raise up this nation, so the poorest among us can find a job, a meal, and a roof over their heads.
Brian Roberts of Gaithersburg, Maryland
Dr. King did much more than dream. He called out, demanded and fought for the conditions that would make his dream come true for millions of Americans. The dream has come true in part and is embodied by many people, but perhaps by no one more than Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.
“President Barack Obama. Those words sound sweet; you are a tribute to my heartfelt dream for my children and all children. And in a sense you are my child. You have taken advantage of the opportunity I dreamed about so many years ago. I am proud of you, son. I am proud of your leadership in education, your understanding of its importance in your own life and your eagerness to help others gain the same knowledge and understanding. So much of your early career was devoted to leading and helping others. You helped adults learn skills for work, tutored young kids, and taught ambitious students constitutional law.
Now you face your greatest challenge. I don’t mean your current run for re-election. I mean continuing your work helping others in the face of unrelenting adversity. How do you help people when Congress is working against you? How do you raise money and maintain your independence? How do you make your transformative rhetoric and the faith, hope and passion it generates into tangible, meaningful help for people? These are great challenges. Are you up to it? Can you live up to the lofty and somewhat unrealistic expectations? Sadly, no you can’t. Not all by yourself. But you don’t have to.
Don’t ever forget you have your podium and your powerful voice. Don’t ever forget you have help. I have many sons and daughters today; you have many energetic, educated and experienced brothers and sisters who can help, want to help and will help. Use your voice to recruit them, to pitch in and educate our young people, especially the poorest among us.
And this you must do because so many young people are going to war instead of going to college, and so many more young people don’t even graduate from high school at all. The promise of opportunity will never be theirs if they don’t get a good education. This is a disgrace in a country as rich as ours, even in a time of great economic strife. I still refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt. I still believe in the fierce urgency of now. And I believe in you.
“Thank you, Dr. King, for your faith in me, for your guidance and your gentle reminder of why I’m here. I haven’t forgotten. While your dream, and the dreams of my parents, has come true for so many people, we know it can and must come true for so many more. We may not get there in my lifetime, yet we will get there. I know because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
Monique Hayes of Fort Washington, Maryland
Brother Obama, we sit on a pine porch in Washington overlooking a maze of marble buildings varnished by the views of Americans. Citizens scatter like seeds spread in the first fields of Genesis. You ask me where they might go while historic parchments promoting freedom fade in museums, while they read of the struggles on cane fields and in Southern conferences our ancestors endured. What will steer them towards the warm threshold that leads to contentment? When water hoses powered by hatred have stopped, when the stained-glass windows of churches stay removed from bomb fire, how do you motivate them to move in the direction of their dreams?
Sweep away pessimism, planted by doubts in the dark corners of this portico’s wooden panels. Merge the cracks until we’re under an awning of understanding. Students of different races remain in makeshift Occupy camps to stop eighty-year olds from being cast out of homes, to earn funds for textbooks that aren’t tattered but are inclusive. I know the burden of troubling thoughts when you occupy lunch counters and other public areas, wishing for concord. If you slip a working class hand into a wealthy hand, the blood that pulses between their palms is the same. The determination of their desires should be deemed worthy, making wrists march across the lines of new laws laced with compassion as hands write with purpose. Then, let your persistent affection for people be a beacon so that they avoid future fractures that have no place on the terrace of brotherly love.
Usher the weary to the welcome mat woven by the principles we hold dear. Idealism should never be illegal, for immigrants have sought shelter from the anxieties of the world since this country’s creation. Pass the necessary paperwork to permit them to share in the promise as unconcealed equals. Do not allow the consciences of your constituents to become corpses, their souls shrinking because national statistics are as dim as the twilight in front of us. Residents must learn to work together no matter what route they took.
Guide the youth to swerve away from splinters stretching out of the surface so they won’t stumble: the trenches of drug wars that make them disappear, the high incarceration rates that cage the spirits of young males, the school shootings that shake them at the core. The number of young neighbors decreases daily when they take lives or end their own. I read the scroll of national news as I sit here with you and imagine the clenching of wounded hearts. Tell them to be positive exceptions, not examples, but remind them they are not alone. Collect enough well-wishers to make the veranda’s boards creak and witness how many tired Americans transform into testimonies of democracy’s resilience.
Brother Obama, stand with me. Stand by me as dusk surrounds our porch and we watch the sun warm our threshold. The brilliant stretch of light you see is where your nation will come after a painful but admirable journey.
Please join us again this year for our exciting “What Would Martin Do?” Forum.
The Third Annual “What Would Martin Do?” Forum
Co-sponsored by Howard University’s School of Communications Annenberg Student Council
Date and Time TBD
Digital Auditorium in the Blackburn Center
2600 Sixth Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20059