The year 2019 marks the twenty-sixth time that Arizona has officially celebrated the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday. For those of us living in Arizona in the late 80’s/early 90’s, we remember the inauspicious beginnings of this day of remembrance. The holiday was originally established by then Governor Bruce Babbitt in 1986 and then later rescinded in 1987 by the late Governor Evan Mecham before we could celebrate the first holiday. Arizona voters, despite national support, voted down the holiday in 1990 and subsequently Arizona lost the NFL Super Bowl because of the league’s protest. Finally, in 1993 the citizens of Arizona voted affirmatively to establish the holiday for Dr. King.
I share this brief history because it demonstrates that our State has always been somewhat hesitant to take a proud stance on remembering the importance of the history of civil rights and reluctant to take a progressive approach on civil rights moving forward in addressing the inequities (educational, economic, social) that exist today.
We as a college are taking a stand that fair-minded critical thinking is a panacea for producing life-long learners who will more reasonably address challenging social issues that Dr. King fought for – moral and just laws, equal civil rights, and the non-violent contesting of injustices. Practicing fair-minded critical thinking is a “heavy lift.” The standards that we will thoughtfully and consistently engage each other: clarity, accuracy, relevance, logic, and openness to opposing viewpoints can sometimes get lost in the emotion of the issue at hand. And today’s issues are equally as relevant as during Dr. King’s lifetime: inequities in access and success in education, broken immigration policy, and a faltering criminal justice system to name a few.
Please take a few moments this weekend to reflect on your understanding of Dr. King’s work. Augment your knowledge (it is not that hard to do with YouTube, Google, Wikipedia) – even if at the surface level. Perhaps, if so inclined take it one step farther and read one of his essays or reach out to a colleague or friend who personally experienced the civil rights movement or who is personally engaged in a civil rights struggle circa 2019.
Thank you for being part of a college that values positive social change.