Martin Luther King Jr Day 2013

Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday in the United States annually celebrating the civil rights leader around his birthday.

Webster University campuses in the U.S. are closed for this holiday as we recall the impact Dr. King had in a pivotal era of the nation's history. In the week leading up to the holiday, the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs group at Webster's home campus led a canned food drive in his memory, with the proceeds donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, a United Way agency.

The annual Emerging Leaders Retreat (ELR) was also held this weekend, with lessons from King's leadership one of the themes. Designed to bring together new student leaders who are in their first few semesters of their Webster University experience, the annual retreat helps students explore their personal leadership style, values and ways to use their voice as emerging leaders to make a positive impact on campus. You can follow some of the reactions to this year's retreat through the Twitter hashtag #wuelr2013.

King's civil rights leadership, and his death in 1968, came amid a time of great social change that affected the entire nation, including Webster. The then-Webster College was led by Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, who led the institution's transfer to a lay board of trustees, led its change to a co-educational college, and created a social justice program that sent Webster students to work in St. Louis' poorest neighborhoods. "Sister J," as she was known, passed away a year ago.

As we recall the late King's impact, we also recall some of his most famous words which inspired so many social leaders who followed in his footsteps:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right."

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody.

Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideals hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different."

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Later this spring term, Webster University will hold its first Global Diversity and Inclusion Summit Feb. 28 in collaboration with faculty, staff and students and the Diversity Working Group.

Photo credit: via Minnesota Historical Society