Each year, during the month of January, the University of Pennsylvania and our surrounding communities come together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The commemoration reminds us of our interdependence and reaffirms our commitment to the betterment of our communities through civility and service.

Opening our doors to embrace programming and visitors dedicated to realizing Dr. King's vision transforms the campus. Sharing our strengths and diversity as we commemorate Dr. King has an impact on the University that continues to be felt across campus and the Philadelphia community.

Martin Luther King, Jr at Penn

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is greeted at the University Museum on "Law Day USA", May 1, 1965. (Photo by Bernato, courtesy the University Archives)

A Message from the Chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Executive Planning Committee:

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls
as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1966

Imagine a society’s core objective being the creation of a beloved community. Dr. King spoke about love and the Greeks word for love “agape which is the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men…. it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man (human being), and you love him because you know God loves him.” For some, this might be an impossible intellectual hurdle to climb. Within a graduate level course I teach at Penn, I direct students to write about an imaginary world where there is no racism. Each time I have conducted this activity students write about the impossibility of such a place existing. I tell the students how disappointed I am that their beliefs systems won’t allow them to imagine a world without racial oppression. Students may have difficulty with this exercise because of the exploitative structure of our society. One student remarked that someone has to be on the bottom. This student has learned that society provides an imbalance. This imbalance and racial oppression are forms of violence against humanity.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with his daughter Yolanda King. (Photo by James Karales)

 “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957).”


Within my social work practice, I have learned that violence is a learned behavior. Many are troubled by violence perpetrated in communities across our country.  I am also appalled with some military personnel, presidential office holders and select business groups who chose war; thus, believe war is an option. Recently, I witnessed Amy Goodwin, an award winning news correspondent ask a retired general what would happen if war wasn’t on the table as an option? I thought what a profound question. What if significant government and corporate representatives held the belief that war was off the table and could not be considered? Humans would “study war no more”. We would have to find ways to treat each other first as humans then as neighbors. This would be the beginning of a “qualitative change in our souls”.

“The great problem facing modern man is that, the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live....The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.1954)”.

Each day is a new day; consequently, let us start this new calendar year imagining amazing possibilities for our society some of which we cannot see. “Imagine all the people sharing all the world. (John Lennon)” And those of you, who imagine wonders for our world are welcome to participate in the University of Pennsylvania’s 20th Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium on Social Change (MLK). The University of Pennsylvania’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium on Social Change begins on Monday, January 19, 2015 with the centerpiece of our Symposium, the Day of Service activities. The Day of Service will begin with a breakfast for volunteers at 8:30 a.m. in Houston Hall’s “Hall of Flags.”  Houston Hall volunteer activities include: children’s banner painting, books on tape, sock stuffing.  There will also be two workshops:  Understanding College Financial Aid (a workshop for parents), and the College Application Process (a workshop for High School Juniors).  Volunteers may also be involved with a variety of community service projects in the West Philadelphia area until 2:00 p.m.  This year, Ms. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, will be our Interfaith keynote speaker on Thursday, January 22, 2015. All Symposium programs are free and open to the public, unless otherwise indicated. They include workshops, discussions, panels, lectures, performances, special presentations, award ceremonies, interfaith programs and documentary film screenings.

"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957)"

A list of event available at: http://www.upenn.edu/aarc/mlk/calendar_mlk.htm

Respectfully Submitted
Robert Carter
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Symposium Executive Committee Co-Chair