Chancellor Johnson delivers keynote to Bristol Community College MLK breakfast - Part 2

The following is the prepared text that Chancellor Robert E. Johnson used for his keynote address at Bristol Community College's annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast.

A WORD ABOUT SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

WE CANNOT DISCUSS THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF DR. KING WITHOUT NOTING HIS SPIRITUALITY. AS A BAPTIST MINISTER DR. KING ALWAYS KNEW THAT GOD WAS ON HIS SIDE, AND BECAUSE OF THAT HE KNEW THE POWER OF TRUTH AND LOVE.

HE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT KNOWING THAT IF HE FOUGHT FOR THE UNIVERSAL LAWS OF JUSTICE, PEACE AND LOVE, HE WOULD WIN THE BATTLE TO REFORM EARTHLY LAWS AROUND CIVIL RIGHTS AND VOTING.SO HE FOUGHT THE SYSTEM, ALWAYS KNOWING THAT: NO JAIL CELL COULD CONTAIN HIM. NO BITING DOGS COULD INTIMIDATE HIM. NO FIRE HOSE COULD TURN HIM. NO EXPLICIT RACISM COULD DISCOURAGE HIM. NO HOODED KLANSMAN COULD FRIGHTEN HIM. NO BOMB COULD DISTRACT HIM. NO BULLET COULD STOP THE ARC OF THE UNIVERSE FROM BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE EVEN ONCE HE WAS GONE.

IS THERE A PLACE FOR POWERFUL SPIRITUAL AWARENESS TODAY OR ARE WE CONDEMNED TO WORSHIP OUR DEVICES. THE PRESENT INTERNET AGE TALKS ABOUT “BG” WHICH MEANS BEFORE GOOGLE. IF DR. KING WERE HERE TODAY, I THINK HE MAY HAVE HIS OWN VERSION OF BG. IT WOULD BE “BEFORE GOD.” HE WOULD BE ASKING US: WHEN WE STAND BEFORE GOD WILL WE DEDICATE OURSELVES TO KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE?

WILL WE TEACH  LITTLE BLACK BOYS HOW TO BECOME STRONG BLACK MEN! WILL WE HELP THE HOMELESS, FEED THE HUNGRY, BE A MOTHER TO THE MOTHERLESS AND A FATHER TO THE FATHERLESS,

AND WILL WE STAND STRONG AGAINST THE TSUNAMI OF INJUSTICE? IN THE CURRENT FACE OF ADVERSITY, WHO IS WILLING TO TAKE UP THE TORCH FOR A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP?

THE 21ST CENTURY HAS EMERGED AND A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP IS RISING TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE PRESENT AGE. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS LOOK AROUND AND WE CAN SEE: THE HOPE AND HUMILITY OF CONGRESSMAN JOE KENNEDY, THE DRIVEN DEDICATED DRUMBEAT OF DEVAL PATRICK, THE CALM COURAGEOUS CHARACTER OF CHARLIE BAKER, THE MARCHING MEANINGFUL MISSION OF MICHELLE OBAMA, THE DAUNTING DETERMINED DIGNITY OF DONNA BRAZILE, THE SERENE SUBTLE STRENGTH OF SPIKE LEE, AND THE BRIGHT BRAVE BRILLIANCE OF BARACK OBAMA.

A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP HAS STEPPED FORWARD, AND IF THEY STAY FOCUSED ON THEIR OWN SELF DEVELOPMENT AND SPIRITUAL AWARENESS, THEN THE DREAM WILL BE KEPT ALIVE. 

MY UNCLE BOB USED TO ALWAYS SAY TO ME: “NEPHEW” FLY WITH THE EAGLES AND DON’T RUN WITH THE TURTLES.  HE USED TO ALWAYS SAY THAT EAGLES ARE INTERESTING BIRDS. WHEN A STORM IS APPROACHING AN AREA THE EAGLE HAS THE ABILITY USE ITS HUGE WING SPAN TO ALLOW THE UPDRAFT OF THE WIND TO LIFT IT HIGH ABOVE THE STORM. THE EAGLE DOES NOT FLY THROUGH THE STORM, BUT ABOVE THE STORM.  IN OUR CURRENT STATE IT IS ONLY THROUGH SUCH ENLIGHTENMENT THAT WE CAN RISE ABOVE THE STORMS THAT ARE HITTING OUR NATION.            

WE MUST RISE ABOVE THE STORM OF PETTY POLITICS. WE MUST RISE ABOVE THE STORM OF OPPORTUNITY FORECLOSURE. WE MUST RISE ABOVE THE STORM OF A DO-NOTHING CONGRESS WE MUST RISE ABOVE THE STORM OF GUN VIOLENCE IN OUR STREETS AND SCHOOLS, AND WE MUST RISE ABOVE THE STORM OF OUR SOLDIERS DYING IN AN ENDLESS WAR.

ONLY THROUGH EDUCATION THAT STRENGTHENS BOTH OUR CHARACTER AND INTELLECT, AND A SELF DEVELOPMENT THAT INCLUDES SPRITUAL AWARENESS, CAN WE HOPE TO BRING SOCIAL CHANGE. 

OUR LEGACY – SOCIAL CHANGE OR FESTERING INJUSTICE?

OUR LEGACY 50 YEARS FROM NOW WILL BE EITHER THE SOCIAL CHANGE WE BRING OR THE INJUSTICE WE ALLOW TO FESTER. DR. KING COMMITTED HIS LIFE TO SOCIAL CHANGE – LITERALLY. HE USED HIS TALENTS TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. HE USED HIS KNOWLEDGE TO CHALLENGE AN UNJUST SYSTEM. HE USED HIS CHARISMA TO MOTIVATE A PEOPLE. HE USED HIS VOICE TO SPREAD HOPE THROUGOUT THE WORLD.

HE USED HIS VISION TO SEE A WORLD THAT OUGHT TO BE. HE USED HIS POWER TO SEEK JUSTICE AT HOME AND PEACE ABROAD. HE USED HIS GIFT THAT GOD HAD GIVEN HIM TO BUILD A BETTER WORLD.            

DR. KING COULD HAVE CHOSEN TO LIVE A COMFORTABLE LIFE.  HE WAS PASTORING A LARGE CHURCH IN ALABAMA. HE COULD HAVE TAUGHT AT A COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY OR SOUGHT POLITICAL OFFICE. BUT HE DID NOT CHOOSE A LIFE OF COMFORT OR CONVENIENCE. HE CHOSE A LIFE OF CHALLENGE AND C NTROVERSY. HE CHOSE TO CHALLENGE THE BUS SYSTEM IN MONTGOMERY. HE CHOSE TO FIGHT FOR VOTING RIGHTS IN SELMA. HE CHOSE TO INTERGRATE BIRMINGHAM. HE CHOSE TO MARCH ON WASHINGTON. HE CHOSE TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR. HE CHOSE TO MARCH WITH THE GARBAGE WORKERS IN MEMPHIS.

WHAT WILL WE CHOOSE TO FIGHT FOR? THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL AMERICANS TO HAVE A DECENT JOB AND A GOOD EDUCATION? A  STOP OF THE PROLIFERATION OF GUNS IN OUR SCHOOLS? INVESTMENT OF CORPORATIONS IN OUR COMMUNITIES? CAPITAL FOR YOUNG ENRTREPRENEURS TO START A BUSINESSES? AN EDUCATION SYSTEM THAT TEACHES FOR LIFE AND NOT JUST FOR A LIVING?            

IT IS ON US TO ENLIVEN, EXCITE, AND ENGAGE A NEW GREAT GENERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE NOT JUST WILLING, BUT ALSO ABLE, TO LIVE THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

ONE OF THE GOALS OF JET MAGAZINE AND MY UNCLE BOB WAS TO KEEP PEOPLE AWARE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD TO INSPIRE POSITIVE CHANGE WITHIN THE COMMUNITY. MY UNCLE BOB, ALONG WITH DR. KING AND COUNTLESS OTHERS, ADVANCED THAT MISSION BY HELPING OUR NATION TO SEE OTHERS WHO WERE DOING GREAT AND INSPIRATIONAL THINGS IN THE WORLD.  IT IS ON US NOW.  IT IS OUR TURN.  IT IS OUR DUTY.

LET US REMEMBER AFTER THE SPEECHES, THE PROCLAMATIONS, THE SONGS AND THE PRAYERS TODAY:

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES

OUR ELDERS DID THEIR BEST

JUSTICE IS NOT PRESENT            

WE MUST DO THE REST,

 

SOMEBODY’S HOMELESS

THERE IS WORK TO BE DONE

SOMEBODY’S HOPELESS

THE VICTORY CAN BE WON.

 

RACISM IS RAMPANT

WE MUST FIGHT WHILE WE CAN

PEACE IS STILL POSSIBLE

IF WE ALL LEND A HAND.

 

APARTHIED DIED

CAN YOU HEAR THE AFRICAN DRUM?

OUR PARENTS DID THEIR BEST

NOW OUR TIME HAS COME!

 

LET US HOLD ON TO THE SAME HUMAN SPIRIT THAT HAS ENABLED US TO SUCCEED AGAINST THE ODDS SO MANY TIMES. THE SAME HUMAN SPIRIT THAT ENABLED US TO RISE FROM THE VALLEY OF SLAVERY TO CORPORATE CEOS.

THE SAME SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED OUR NATION TO RISE UP AGAINST THE TYRANY OF THE TERRORIST.

THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF HUMAN SPIRITS: THE SPIRIT OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY, THE SPIRIT OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, THE SPIRIT OF HENRY FORD WHO WANTED TO BUILD A CAR THAT HIS EMPLOYEES COULD AFFORD TO BUY, THE SPIRIT OF ALBERT EINSTEIN WHO WON A NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS, THE SPIRIT OF OUR SOLDIERS WHO STORMED THE SHORES AGAINST FASCISM.

YES, THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF HUMAN SPIRIT IN THE WORLD, BUT I THINK WE NEED TO CAPTURE THE HUMAN SPIRIT OF OUR ANCESTORS. THE SAME SPIRIT OF A BLACK MAN BY THE NAME OF CHEOPS. HE WAS THE BUILDER OF THE GREAT PYRAMID, WHICH STANDS 451 FEET HIGH. IT COVERS 13 ACRES OF LAND AND IT TOOK MORE THAN 2.5 MILLION BRICKS TO BUILD. EVEN TODAY, WITH ALL OF OUR MODERN TECHNOLOGY, WE CANNOT DETERMINE HOW OUR ANCESTORS ACTUALLY BUILT THE PYRAMID.            

ON THIS KING HOLIDAY LET US RECAPTURE OUR HUMAN SPIRIT. THE SAME HUMAN SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER TO DERIVE OVER 285 PRODUCTS FROM A PEANUT AND 118 PRODUCTS FROM A POTATO.

ON THIS KING HOLIDAY LET US RECAPTURE OUR HUMAN SPIRIT.   THE SAME SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED US TO ENDURE OVER 450 YEARS OF SLAVERY AND GO ON TO ELECT THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

THE SAME SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED US TO ENDURE: OUR CHILDREN BEING KILLED IN NEWTOWN, CT; THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE GREAT RECESSION[ VIETNAM, TWO WORLD WARS, AND 9-11; AND HURRICANES IN TEXAS AND PUERTO RICO.

LET US CONTINUE THE DREAM WITH SAME HUMAN SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED US TO DISCOVER THE PRINTING PRESS, TRAFFIC LIGHT, AND BABY CARRIAGE; THE SAME HUMAN SPIRIT THAT ALLOWED US TO DISCOVER SYRUP, THE IRONING BOARD, SUGAR AND EVEN WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE.           

LET US CONTINUE THE DREAM AND BUILD ON THE WONDROUS WORKS OF W.E.B. DUBOIS,, THE POSITIVE PERSUASIVE PROSE OF PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR, THE TALENTED TENACIOUS TRUTHS OF JUSTICE THURGOOD MARSHALL, AND THE STRONG SOPHISTICATION OF SOJOURNER TRUTH.

LET US KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE BY REMEMBERING:

MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS A GREAT MAN

WE SHOULD LOOK TO HIM AND SAY, YES I CAN;

HE HAD A DREAM AND SO SHOULD YOU,

WHY DON’T YOU STAND AND SHOW THE WORLD WHAT WE CAN DO!

 

SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THE DREAM IS DEAD

WE HAVE TO STAND, OUR YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO BE LED.

THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY ALWAYS SEEM,

THERE IS A YOUNG PERSON OUT THERE WHO ALSO HAS A DREAM!

 

LET’S ALL STAND AND JOIN AS A TEAM

TO REMEMBER THIS GREAT MAN WHO ONE NIGHT HAD A DREAM;

SOME CALLED HIM DOCTOR, SOME LIVE HIS DREAM;

REMEMBER THE LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING

 

WE ALL CAN DREAM, OH YES WE CAN,

DO NOT FORGET THE FULL MEASURE OF THIS MAN.

IF WE HAVE FAITH AND BELIEVE IN GOD’S WILL,

JUST LIKE KING, OUR DREAMS WILL BE FULFILLED.

 

SO LET US GO FORWARD AND REMEMBER ONE THING,

NEVER EVER FORGET THE LEGACY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING!

 

FINALLY I WANT TO CLOSE WITH THE SPIRIT OF MY UNCLE BOB WHO WROTE THE COVER STORY IN JET MAGAZINE OF EMMETT TILL’S DEATH.  I WANT TO CONTEXTUALIZE EMMETT TILL’S DEATH WITH WHAT I RECENTLY HEARD SOMEONE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SAY ABOUT HIS ACCUSER.

AS YOU KNOW, IN 1955 IN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI CAROLYN BRYANT, A WHITE WOMAN, ACCUSED A 14-YEAR-OLD BLACK BOY BY THE NAME OF EMMETT TILL OF WHISTLING AT HER AS SHE WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET. LAST YEAR, IT WAS PUBLISHED AND SHE ADMITTED, THAT SHE LIED ABOUT EMMETT TILL AND HE NEVER WHISTLED AT HER. MORE THAN 60 YEARS AGO SHE LIED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.  SHE WAS THE JIM CROW VERSION OF FAKE NEWS.

EMMETT TILL WAS DRAGGED FROM HIS HOME AND LYNCHED FROM A TREE.  HIS MOTHER INSISTED THEY HAVE AN OPEN CASKET SO THE WORLD COULD SEE HOW HER SON WAS BRUTALIZED.

ROSA PARKS SAID THE DAY SHE DECIDED TO NOT SIT IN THE BACK OF THE BUS SHE THOUGHT OF EMMETT TILL.  YOU SEE EMMETT TILL’S DEATH WAS THE SPARK THAT LIT A CANDLE THAT CAUSED THE SMOLDERING FLAME THAT UNTLIMATELY IGNITED THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

CAROLYN BRYANT’S SINGLE ACTION, HER DECISION TO LIE, TRIGGERED A NATION TO RISE AND FIGHT FOR A COMMON CAUSE AND ULTIMATELY THE ARC OF THE UNIVERSE BENT TOWARDS JUSTICE. HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND THE ARC TOWARDS JUSTICE I WOULD NOT BE THE CHANCELLOR AT UMASS DARTMOUTH TODAY.

AS WE GO OUR SEPARATE WAYS THINK ABOUT A LEADER WHO TALKS ABOUT FAKE NEWS…WOMEN IN DEEPLY MISOGYNISTIC WAYS…PREFERRING IMMIGRANTS FROM NORWAY OVER THOSE FROM HAITI OR AFRICA.          

I KNOW WE ARE ALL APPALLED BY AND TERRIFIED OF A LEADER WHO PROMOTES HATRED, RACISM, AND XENOPHOBIA AND WHO USES SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE HIMSELF AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN WHAT CAROLYN BRYANT STOOD FOR THEN AND WHAT A CERTAIN LEADER STANDS FOR TODAY.

TAKE THE PHYSICAL IMAGE OF EMMETT TILL’S BODY LAYING IN THE CASKET AND LET IT INSPIRE US TODAY. LET US RISE UP AS A NATION WITH THE WILL TO WIN AND ACHIEVE THE TRUE GOAL OF EDUCATION, WHICH IS INTELLIGENCE PLUS CHARACTER.    

LET US RISE UP AS A NATION AND A COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS AND NOT LET THE MODERN DAY CAROLYN BRYANT TRIUMPH. LET US RISE UP WITH THE WILL TO WIN SO THAT 50 YEARS FROM NOW HISTORY WILL SAY JANUARY 15, 2018, WAS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERS WHO BENT THE ARC OF THE UNIVERSE TOWARDS JUSTICE!


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