Chancellor Johnson calls for education that develops intellect and character in keynote address to Bristol Community College MLK breakfast held January 15, 2018

The following the prepared text for Chancellor Johnson's speech to 200 community members.

IT IS A PLEASURE AND A JOY TO BE HERE TODAY FOR THIS GREAT CELEBRATION.  I WOULD LIKE TO THANK: DR. LAURA DOUGLAS FOR HER LEADERSHIP, AND OUR COMMUNITY AND CIVIC LEADERS FOR THEIR CONTINUED QUEST TO PROMOTE SOCIAL JUSTICE. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK MY UMASS DARTMOUTH FAMILY FOR ITS SUPPORT DURING MY TRANSITION TO MY NEW POSITION. WE ARE PROUD OF THE FACT THAT AT UMASS DARTMOUTH WE PROVIDE A PRIVATE COLLEGE EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE AND A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY VALUE.  

I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE REASON I HAVE HAD ANY ELEMENT OF SUCCESS IN MY LIFE.  SHE IS MY ROCK AND BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS,  MY WIFE MICHELLE JONES JOHNSON WHO SERVES AS VICE PRESIDENT OF TALENT AT WPI IN WORCESTER AND WHO IS A BONA FIDE THOUGHT LEADER IN ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF WORK.

I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO CONGRATULATE CLAYTON TIMAS AS THE DISTINGUISHED AFRICAN AMERICAN ALUMNUS OF THE YEAR.

TO DR. LAURA DOUGLAS, FRIENDS AND TO ALL OF THE FOOT SOLDIERS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO SPEND JUST A FEW MOMENTS ON THIS GREAT DAY TO TALK ABOUT THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

MASSACHUSETTS HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND CONTINUES TO BE A BEACON OF HOPE AND JUSTICE. MASSACHUSETTS IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF CRISPUS ATTUCKS AND W.E.B. DUBOIS SO IT IS FITTING THAT WE CELEBRATE THIS DAY STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF THOSE WHO HAVE COME BEFORE US – THOSE AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO BUILT A RICH LEGACY, MADE HISTORY, AND MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD:

-- THE 54TH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN REGIMENTS IN THE CIVIL WAR.

-- PHYLLIS WHEATLEY WHO WAS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE AFRICAN AMERICAN POET.

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WE ALL HAVE COME HERE TO TODAY TO CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. 

I DID NOT KNOW DR. KING, BUT MY UNCLE BOB DID. UNCLE BOB WAS THE ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF JET MAGAZINE FOR MORE THAN 45 YEARS. HE GRADUATED FROM MY ALMA MATER MOREHOUSE COLLEGE WITH DR. KING IN 1948. UNCLE BOB WAS MY MENTOR AND I AM HIS NAMESAKE.

MY THOUGHTS TODAY ARE INFORMED BY UNCLE BOB’S RELATIONSHIP WITH DR. KING AND MY OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING III, WHOM I HAVE COME TO KNOW BECAUSE WE ATTENDED MOREHOUSE COLLEGE AT THE SAME TIME.

TODAY, THROUGHOUT THE KING HOLIDAY CELEBRATION, ACROSS THIS NATION AND AROUND THE WORLD, PEOPLE -- REGARDLESS OF COLOR OR CLASS -- WILL GATHER IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES, IN SYNAGOUGES AND SANCTUARIES, IN AUDITORIUMS AND GYMNASIUMS, ON THEIR JOBS AND IN JAILS, IN HALLS AND IN HOMES TO HONOR THE LIFE AND WORK OF THE LATE AND GREAT DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

THERE WILL BE SERMONS AND SPEECHES; THERE WILL BE MARCHES AND MONUMENT; THERE WILL BE PROGRAMS AND PROCLAMATIONS; THERE WILL BE TESTIMONIALS AND TEACH-INS; THERE WILL BE PRAYING AND SINGING. AND EVERY EVENT WILL BE DESIGNED TO RE-DEDICATE DR. KING’S DREAM.

EDUCATION EMPOWERED DR. KING       

IT IS FITTING THAT WE GATHER TODAY AT AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION. IN 1947 AT MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, DR. KING WROTE IN THE MAROON TIGER, THE STUDENT NEWSPAPER, THAT “EDUCATION HAS BOTH A UTILITARIAN AND MORAL FUNCTION.”

THINK ABOUT THAT IDEA. YOUR EDUCATION IS WASTED IF IT IS ONLY USED TO EARN AND NOT TO SERVE. KING ARGUED AND INSISTED THAT INTELLIGENCE PLUS CHARACTER –IS THE GOAL OF TRUE EDUCATION.

THINK ABOUT THAT IDEA. YOU CANNOT BE TRULY EDUCATED WITHOUT THE DEVELOPMENT OF BOTH YOUR INTELLECT AND YOUR CHARACTER, YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR SOUL. DR. KING KNEW THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING. HE KNEW THAT KNOWLEDGE WAS POWER. HE KNEW THAT A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.

THEREFORE, EARLY IN DR. KING’S LIFE HE DECIDED TO DEVELOP HIMSELF TO THE FULLEST THROUGH EDUCATION.  AT THE AGE OF 15 HE FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL AND WENT TO MOREHOUSE COLLEGE. AT 19 HE FINISHED COLLEGE AND STARTED WORKING ON HIS MASTER’S. AT 22 HE FINISHED HIS MASTER’S AND STARTED WORKING ON HIS PH.D. AT 25 HE FINISHED HIS PH.D. AND STARTED PASTORING AT DEXTER AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH. AND AT THE AGE OF 26 HE STARTED THE SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE AND FROM THAT POINT HE BUILT A BETTER WORLD – ONE INDIVIDUAL EMPOWERED BY AN EDUCATION THAT DEVELOPED BOTH HIS INTELLECT AND HIS CHARACTER.           

LET ME ASK YOU TODAY THEN, DO WE HAVE THE WILL AS A COMMUNITY AND AS A NATION TO ACHIEVE THE TRUE GOAL OF EDUCATION – INTELLIGENCE PLUS CHARACTER?

IS IT POSSIBLE TO ENSURE A VIBRANT AND COMPETITIVE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THE AGE OF GOOGLE, TWITTER AND FACEBOOK WHEN MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF INFORMATION – SOME TRUE, SOME FALSE – CONSTANTLY ECHOES ACROSS THE GLOBE AND TOO OFTEN ENTICES US TO CONSIDER ONLY THAT WHICH WE ARE PRE-CONDITIONED TO BELIEVE.

MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON WHAT WOULD DR. KING SAY ABOUT THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN OUR DIGITAL, HYPERCONNECTED, YET DIVIDED, SOCIETY? I KNOW WHAT MY UNCLE BOB USED TO TELL ME. DR. KING IS BRILLIANT. DR. KING IS DETERMINED. DR. KING HAS DRIVE.

I SUM IT UP THIS WAY. DR. KING HAD THE POWERFUL COMBINATION OF INTELLECT, CHARACTER, AND THE WILL TO WIN. REGARDLESS OF THE FIREHOSES OR THREATS ON HIS LIFE HE HAD THE WILL TO WIN.

NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES HE WAS PUT IN JAIL HE HAD THE WILL TO WIN.

WE TALK ABOUT DR. KING’S DREAM, BUT DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO WIN IN THE PRESENT AGE? DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO WIN AT EDUCATION BECAUSE WE KNOW PROVIDING QUALITY EDUCATION IS A SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND MORAL IMPERATIVE. AS OUR SCHOOLS, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES GO, SO GO OUR COMMUNITIES, OUR ECONOMY, OUR NATION, OUR DEMOCRACY.

WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE OUR EDUCATION SYSTEMS ARE STRUGGLING. TOO MANY KIDS -- 13 MILLION -- ARE GOING TO SCHOOL HUNGRY. ONE IN FIVE LIVE IN FOOD INSECURE HOUSEHOLDS. TOO MANY KIDS ARE DROPPING OUT. ONE IN FOUR STUDENTS DO NOT COMPLETE HIGH SCHOOL ON TIME IN THIS COUNTRY.  ONE IN SIX 16-24 YEAR OLDS HAVE NOT COMPLETED HIGH SCHOOL.

TOO MANY STATES ARE INVESTING TOO LITTLE IN EDUCATION, FROM K TO GRAY. AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS DONE TOO LITTLE TO KEEP COLLEGE FINANCIALLY ACCESSIBLE. THIS HAS PLACED THE BURDEN ON STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES, INCREASING THE AVERAGE STUDENT DEBT IN AMERICA TO $37,000.

DENYING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY TO YOUNG PEOPLE HAS PROFOUND ECONOMIC IMPACT ON INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES. THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS REPORTS THAT A HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT WILL EARN ABOUT $26,000…A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE  $35,000…A COMMUNITY COLLEGE GRADUATE $42,000. IF YOU EARN YOUR BACHELOR’S DEGREE $59,000 AND A MASTER’S DEGREE $70,000. YOU GET THE POINT. EDUCATION EQUALS ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY.

MEANWHILE, THE PERSPECTIVE DEVELOPED THROUGH YEARS OF EDUCATION IS PRICELESS. WE CANNOT RAISE A GENERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE CAPABLE OF KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE UNLESS WE CHANGE THE COURSE OF EDUCATION IN THIS COUNTRY. DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO WIN?  DO WE HAVE THE CHARACTER TO STAND UP AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT?

THE TRUTH IS THAT SOMEWHERE, AT SOME TIME, OUR NATION STOPPED THINKING OF EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD. WE HAVE STOPPED THINKING OF EDUCATION AS AN INVESTMENT IN OUR COLLECTIVE WELL-BEING. THE DATA IS CLEAR. THE MORE EDUCATION YOU HAVE, THE HIGHER YOUR INCOME. THE MORE EDUCATION YOU HAVE, THE HEALTHIER YOU ARE. THE MORE EDUCATION YOU HAVE, THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE TO COMMIT A CRIME OR BECOME A VICTIM OF CRIME. THE HIGHER A COMMUNITY’S DROPOUT RATE IS, THE WEAKER ITS ECONOMY. THE LOWER A COMMUNITY’S EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT, THE LOWER ITS FAMILY INCOME IS.

HERE IN FALL RIVER, CIVIC LEADERS UNDERSTAND THE CONNECTION. YOUR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND CORPORATE CITIZENS SUCH AS NICK CHRIST AT BAYCOAST BANK ADVOCATE AND INVEST IN EDUCATION BECAUSE THEY RECOGNIZE THE ECONOMIC BENEFIT TO THE COMMUNITY. THEY DESERVE APPLAUSE.

AND WE KNOW FROM DR. KING’S EXAMPLE THAT THE EDUCATION OF ONE CHILD HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CHANGE OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY.

EDUCATION EQUALS SELF-DEVELOPMENT

WE NEED ONLY TO LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM TO SEE HOW SELF DEVELOPMENT HAS CHANGED THE LIVES OF PEOPLE. WE NEED ONLY SURVEY THE LANDSCAPE OF AMERICA TO SEE HOW SELF-DEVELOPMENT HAS BROUGHT US A LONG WAY FROM 50 YEARS AGO

WE NEED ONLY TO LOOK AT: THE ACUTE ANALYTICAL ABILITY OF ALEX HALEY;THE BAD BODACIOUS BRILLIANCE OF BENJAMIN ELIJAH MAYS; THE OPTIMISTIC OPEN-MINDEDNESS OF OPRAH WINFREY; THE CALM COURAGEOUS CHARACTER OF CORETTA SCOTT KING; OR THE MARVELOUS MYSTICAL MAGIC OF MAYA ANGELOU.

TO SEE WE ARE LIVING THE DREAM EACH AND EVERY DAY, IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY THERE ARE AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO HAVE STOOD UP AND MOVED FORWARD IN EVERY WALK OF LIFE. THE ROAD HAS BEEN LONG AND THE STRUGGLE HAS BEEN GREAT, BUT WE ARE LIVING THE DREAM BECAUSE OF THE SHOULDERS OF THOSE WHO HAVE COME BEFORE US TO CONFRONT AND CONQUER INJUSTICE.

NOTHING WILL DETER US FROM ADVANCING, EVEN THOUGH SOME MIGHT SAY WE LIVE IN TREACHEROUS TIMES. THE DISAPPEARING CIVIL DISCOURSE IN OUR COUNTRY; THE ALT RIGHT MOVEMENT; THE EMBRACING AND APPLAUDING OF VENOMOUS TWEETS. IT WAS THE PARLIMENTARIAN EDMUND BURKE WHO SAID, “THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING.”

DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO WIN? WHAT CAN WE SAY ABOUT: SOCIETY THAT IS STILL GRAPPLING WITH THE VERY BASIC PRINCIPLE OF TREATING WOMEN WITH RESPECT OR A SOCIETY THAT WILL NOT PAY A WOMAN THE SAME WAGE AS A MAN WHO IS DOING THE SAME JOB? WE SHOULD BE EXCITED THAT TWO WOMEN HOST THE TODAY SHOW, BUT THAT EXCITEMENT IS TEMPERED BY THE FACT THAT NEITHER OF THEM EARNS 50 PERCENT OF THE WAGE OF THE ABUSIVE MAN THAT HODA REPLACED.

DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO WIN?

WHO WILL CARRY THE TORCH?

EVERY YEAR AROUND THIS TIME THERE IS A RENEWED DIALOGUE ABOUT WHO ARE TODAY’S TORCH BEARERS? WHO IS THE 21ST CENTURY MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.?

DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT MY UNCLE BOB WOULD SOMETIMES TRAVEL WITH DR. KING TO COVER A STORY.  THE PUBLISHER, MR. JOHN H. JOHNSON, WOULD ALWAYS TELL UNCLE BOB THAT IT WAS DANGEROUS AND HE DID NOT HAVE TO GO TO COVER THE STORY IN MISSISSIPPI, MONTGOMERY, BIRMINGHAM OR SELMA. UNCLE BOB, AS A DEDICATED JOURNALIST, WOULD TAKE THAT RISK SO THAT BLACK AMERICA COULD BE TOLD THE STORY OF THE STRUGGLE AND THE MOVEMENT.

UNCLE BOB WENT WITH DR. KING DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT. IN AUGUST OF 1955 HE WENT TO MISSISSIPPI TO COVER THE BRUTAL MURDER OF EMMETT TILL.  THE STORY WITH THE PICUTRE OF EMMETT TILL APPEARED ON THE COVER OF JET MAGAZINE. IT LIT A FIRE IN THE SOUL AND CONSCIENCE OF A COUNTRY AND ENERGIZED THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

AS A COUNTRY WE ARE NOT WHERE WE NEED TO BE, BUT THANK GOD WE ARE NOT WHERE WE USED TO BE.  WE HAVE COME A MIGHTY LONG WAY IN THE STRUGGLE.  WE ARE ALL LIVING AND REALIZING THE DREAM EACH AND EVERY DAY.  WE HAVE REALIZED THAT DREAM THROUGH SELF DEVELOPMENT IN EDUCATION, BUSINESS, INDUSTRY, GOVERNMENT AND THE LAW.

I CONTEND THAT IF EVERYONE HERE TODAY COMMITS THEMSELVES TO SELF DEVELOPMENT THEN THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF PEOPLE TO PICK UP THE TORCH TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE PRESENT AGE.

WE CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT RECREATE THE PAST, A BOYCOTT IN BIRMINGHAM, A SIT-IN IN SELMA OR A MARCH IN MONTGOMERY. WE HAVE TO STAND UP WITH A MORAL CONSCIENCE, UNDERPINNED BY INTELLECT AND CHARACTER TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE PRESENT AGE.

WE WITNESSED THIS IN AN ALABAMA SENATE RACE A FEW WEEKS AGO. IT SHOULD NOT GO UNNOTICED THAT THE ALT-RIGHT-PREFERRED CANDIDATE WAS WINNING ALL NIGHT – AND THEN THE LAST PRECINCTS STARTED BEING COUNTED – IN THE COUNTY WHERE SELMA IS LOCATED. WHEN SELMA WAS COUNTED, IT WAS CLEAR THAT THE ALT-RIGHT WOULD LOSE AND THE MAN WHO PROSECUTED TWO KLAN MEMBERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHURCH BOMBING THAT MURDERED FOUR AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRLS WOULD WIN. THE ARC OF THE UNIVERSE BENT A LITTLE MORE TOWARD JUSTICE THAT NIGHT.

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