For more than 25 years, Valparaiso University and the surrounding community have gathered to celebrate, commemorate, and encourage the continuance of the work began by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Instead of taking the day off and contemplating in isolation our call, we choose to gather as a community to collectively reflect on the legacy of Rev. King and the work still left for us to do. Through targeted discussions, focus sessions, and compelling convocation, we allow Rev. King’s prophetic work to give life and guidance to fulfilling the dream today.

Our Theme: Conscious Humanity: What is Justice?

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. engaged this country at one of the most difficult times in our history. During this time that shaped American and world history, Rev. King wrote these words: “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?”

His message of hope, equality, and the dream of unity not only challenged this nation but also shook it awake to the existence of inequities that were rooted deep in the national subconscious. Once again, America finds itself in a difficult time, and there is a distinct need to awaken our humanity. This year, as we continue to celebrate and memorialize the dream and ideals of Rev. King, we also ring the alarm clock to rouse our collective humanity and begin to analyze the important questions of “What is justice?” and “What should be our response to injustice?” In these questions, we find the need to analyze our position as it relates to our humanity and the humanity we believe we have been called to serve. It is in this vein that we celebrate the legacy and work of Rev. King through a day of remembrance and rededication to the dream he shared with us.

 Our Speaker: Cornel West

As we dialogue throughout the day on the theme: “Conscious Humanity: What is Justice?” we are excited to host Cornel West, esteemed lecturer and activist and one of the foremost contemporary thinkers on the topic of justice.

Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and professor emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton.

In short, Cornel West has a passion for communicating to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

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