Diversity is America's strength, key to success

Monday, January 18, 2010
Mark A. Heckler
President, Valparaiso University

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1968

Across our country and throughout the world, people of numerous races, nationalities, faiths and backgrounds are joining today in a celebration of Dr. King’s dedication to improving relations among all of humanity. We live in a more equal, just and inclusive society today as a result of this worthy enterprise, and Dr. King continues to inspire people striving for the betterment of all.

Yet we know that Dr. King’s work is not over. People across our world continue to live under oppression, their lives at risk if they speak out against those in power, or deprived of their rights and treated as second-class citizens. Even within our own communities, we continue to see that hatred persists toward people who look different, who may have been born in a different country or who worship a different faith or at a different church. Those of us who live in Northwest Indiana are no strangers to this dynamic. Despite the progress that has been made in this country toward a society where people are judged by the content of their character, more is required.

Dr. King recognized that everyone must be engaged in creating a world where people are not only equal, but where the vast diversity of humankind is welcomed and embraced. Diversity breathes life into our world. Think of the countless genres of music we enjoy – blues, jazz, country, rock and more – that were born from the fusion of different musical traditions. Or the plentiful options we have in Northwest Indiana to travel the world by sampling the food of different nations and regions, from India to China to Spain to the Middle East and many other countries.

In his 1963 book “Strength to Love,” Dr. King wrote that “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Today, I ask the people of Northwest Indiana to stand up and be champions for making this region a loving and welcoming community for all who choose to live, work, and study here.

This will not be achieved passively. We must speak out when we see intolerance and hate in our communities. We must model what it means to unconditionally love our neighbors at all times. We must lift up our sisters and brothers in need.

Dr. King told us that life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” I urge you today to answer loudly that we will continue his struggle to make this world a place where diversity of people, backgrounds, ideas and beliefs is seen as America’s historic strength and the key to its future success.