Dear Fordham,

Today is more than a much-needed Monday off. Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as another of our founding fathers, helping this country live up to its stated ideals. We remember that progress is not inevitable, but contested and fought for. We remember how far we have come but also how much of the work of racial justice is unfinished and how quickly we slide backward.

When we think about our heroes, we risk freezing them into bronze statues without humanity. To believe that Dr. King was perfect is to let ourselves off the hook as mere mortals. He was not perfect. He struggled with doubts and despair, with exhaustion and fear. But the power of his faith gave him courage so vast it takes our breath away.

And it was his faith that drove him—not just faith in democratic values, but in God. His example reminds us that religion, while often abused, is also the most powerful force for good, for justice. He led as a minister, harnessing the clarion call of Moses and Jesus to cut through a nation’s political denial.

King took the Gospels quite literally. He found a way to love his enemies, even when they came at him with visceral hatred and evil racism. By doing so, he revealed the truth of that hatred, and that contrasting love, to the world. King was willing to give his life for all of us, as he said the night before he was murdered, “to get to the Promised Land.”

And he was not alone. We hold forth individual heroes for inspiration, but movements are so much bigger than any one person. There are so many other leaders whose names we should know and must keep learning. So many heroes in our midst. There are also so many names we will never know, those countless thousands, from little children to college students to fragile old people, who marched, sat in whites-only seats, attempted to vote, and risked their lives as King did. So many others who also gave their lives.

Today let’s take a moment to remember that each of us faces profound moral choices, which are rarely labeled as such. Let us work harder to find the right path and to find the courage to take it.

Fordham, we don’t need to be fearless. We need to be brave.

Prayers and blessings,
Tania Tetlow, President