Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Remarks by President Denise Trauth
January 19, 2021

Good afternoon and welcome to Texas State University’s 37th annual celebration of the legacy of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior.

Special thanks to the students who are sharing their talents with us today by performing music, dance, and poetry.

I’d also like to express my gratitude to the faculty and staff who worked to organize today’s event. Dr. King’s legacy is one of hope. Through his life and words, he showed us that hope takes courage.

It requires a willingness to take bold risks – that some would even perceive as radical.

And hope will take us forward.

I’m humbled to have witnessed on countless occasions what our community is capable of.

I’ve seen the impact we can make when we work together with a shared goal.

Let this year’s theme of Dream Together carry us into the rest of 2021.

It can serve as a reminder that we are a community – even though we may be physically apart.

We remain connected by our values, goals, and dreams for the future.

Although I am horrified by the way this new year started -- a terrorist takeover of our nation’s Capitol -- I am hopeful as we enter 2021 because of the promise of a COVID vaccine. 

This is a unique time for our nation -- and yet -- some of the challenges we face are timeless.

We are gathering virtually today to celebrate Martin Luther King Junior’s legacy -- and reaffirm our commitment to carry on his work for racial equality

Dr. King is a widely beloved and revered figure today – but that wasn’t always the case.

Before monuments were erected in his honor and a federal holiday bore his name, his advocacy of basic human rights and equality were considered by many to be radical.

I hope that reminds us, as we take on the work ahead of us this year:

Even when we’re doing precisely what we should - we can still run into resistance.

When we try to move in a new direction, to find a better way, and to uplift the voices of those who have been marginalized, some people may say that’s wrong, and even call it radical.

Press on, in the pursuit of justice and equality.

For those who feel you don’t have a voice -- or that your voice is not important, press on.

And for those of you who have worked for equality all your life and sometimes feel overwhelmed by the racism you see around you.

Press on.

As an institution of higher learning, and a community fortunate to include many people of color, we have responsibilities.

We must be rooted in a culture that values equity, diversity, inclusion, access, civility, and justice.

We must do everything in our power to make each and every person feel welcome, and at home in this community.

We must work across all areas of the university to create this inclusive environment and to do the work that inclusion requires.

In the spirit of Doctor King, we owe it to each other, and to ourselves, to have the courage and humility to recognize our own biases.

We MUST have the courage to examine the TRUTH.

The truth about our history as a nation.

The truth about the ugliness of racism and hate.

And the truth about our own individual, personal biases, which can perpetuate racism and prejudice.

Half a century after Doctor King’s assassination, racial injustice has endured.

Some of our students, faculty, and staff of color live under the weight of stereotypes and bigotry that are rooted in fear and ignorance.

As a white woman of privilege, I’ll never fully understand the experiences of our Black students, faculty, and staff – or the emotions they have felt during the social and political upheaval of the past several years.

But as President of Texas State, I am committed to building an environment where they feel safe, valued, and heard.

I want to share a short reading about Dr. King written by his friend and our civil rights hero, the late Congressman John Lewis.

This is from his book “Across that Bridge.”

“Through his leadership, people young and old, black and white, from different parts of America and from nations around the world were able to expose the falsehood of division:

The idea that there is a separation between us that makes one person somehow better than the other.

The stain of this lie had permeated American history and was embedded in the fabric of American life.”

Congressman Lewis closes this quotation by saying, “Dr. King’s leadership and his activism helped to redeem the soul of America, a nation destined for greatness but tarnished by a persistent, nagging untruth.”

Today, we must continue to root out this untruth that our Black students, faculty, and staff still experience.

We see the impact of this falsehood in socioeconomic disparity that exists for Black people.

Racism and systemic inequities have very real and dire consequences.

We need not look far to see proof of this.

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black communities, businesses, and families.

How do we rebut this falsehood described by Congressman Lewis?

We stand up together to affirm that Black Lives Matter. 

We take bold action together to seek a reckoning for social injustice.

We unequivocally denounce white supremacy.

As a university, we not only condemn hate, bigotry, and racism – but we actively remove it from our culture and our systems. 

We drive forward focused on equity, empowerment, and transformation.

But we know that this requires more than words.

At Texas State, we have taken bold action to build a community rooted in equity and inclusion for people of color and marginalized groups.

That’s why we have worked hard and worked together to create initiatives aimed at enhancing equity and inclusion:

We convened a task force to re-name two buildings and name streets on both our San Marcos and Round Rock Campuses after distinguished members of the Texas State family who are Black and Latino.

Another task force is answering questions about mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for faculty and staff.

The Council on Inclusive Excellence membership has been updated to bring key leaders together to provide input and guidance.

We recently signed a contract with Life Anew, an organization that will guide us through the process of building long-term, equitable relationships across the university.

Last summer, we held:

A Day of Reflection and Solidarity on Juneteenth;

Listening sessions with faculty, staff, and students of color;

And Town Halls that focused on restorative justice and equitable relationships.

We led a major reorganization effort which centralized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion units that were previously separate.

Bringing these teams together has amplified the transformational work being done by D-E-&-I professionals on our two campuses.

We also created programs and resources that support the recruitment and promotion of faculty and staff of color.

These efforts are designed to build an environment where all students, faculty, and staff feel welcomed and valued.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but we have more work to do. 

And it will take all of us, working and dreaming together, to build the inclusive and equitable Texas State all Bobcats deserve.

Together, we will press on.

In the words of Dr. King, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

May we continue to be fierce in our truth-telling and in our commitment to hear and value every voice.

Thanks to everyone for joining us today.