18th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration (1992) – M.A. Burnham – The Dream and the Reality

[MUSIC PLAYING] LAWRENCE: Good afternoon. My name is Deirdre Lawrence. I’m a PhD candidate
in the Division of Toxicology, President of
the Black Graduate Student Association. I will be your
mistress of ceremonies. I would like to invite Father
Bernard Campbell to deliver the invocation. CAMPBELL: The dominant
imagery of relationship among human beings and
between human beings and the mysterious
God of the Bible is not that of a contract. Contracts bespeak
in human experience, and necessarily,
limited commitment. They are strictly limited
to the persons who sign on. Limited too both in the
promises made, and the timing for the completion
of the agreement. The Bible on the
other hand, speaks of relationships more daringly. A whole, not
partial heartedness. characterizes the
central image covenant. The mysterious God
promises, I will be with you no matter what you do. I will remain faithful to you. This indeed is the
strangest of all the gods. And humankind, stunned
by that fidelity, is invited to memory,
action, and hope. Remember, you were once
widows, orphans, strangers. So now, care for the
weak in your midst, and do so without losing heart. In that memory, passion
for justice and hope, we gather to celebrate one
of the mysterious God’s most faithful covenanters,
Martin Luther King Jr. Lord God, you who
hold all our names etched in your hand, who will
not quench the flickering flame or break the bruised reed,
bolster us with your fidelity, that our memories not merely
be custodians of nostalgia for the good old days, that
our passion for justice be wide and deep, and not
simply the trickle of just us. And that through all the
bitterness of human folly, help us to remain of
one mind and heart with you, amazed at the
dignity of the human person, made in your likeness and image. Amen. LAWRENCE: Now, Turquoise
Gosman, a student in the MIT Wellesley
Upward Bound Program from Cambridge
Rindge and Latin High School will extend a warm welcome. GOSMAN: To President Vest
and to our esteemed guest speaker, Judge Higginbotham,
and to the other members of today’s program, and
to you, our audience. I bid you a fond good afternoon. My name is Turquoise Gosman. I’m a student in the MIT
Wellesley Upward Bound Program, and a sophomore at Cambridge
Rindge and Latin High School. It is indeed a privilege and
an honor to welcome all of you to MIT’s 21st annual celebration
of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am
honored to be included in the special celebration for
such a wonderful civil rights leader. We’ve come here today to show
our appreciation for someone whose work and talents
seem to be remembered only on one day in January and
during Black History Month. Dr. Martin Luther
King and his beliefs should be remembered every day. This was a man the great
civil rights leader. He tried to make a better
lives for all races. This was not a man who
believed that there were only black and white races. Dr. King was a man who believed
that our races were equal and deserve recognition
and respect. No Martin Luther King Jr was
colorblind, but he chose to be. Martin Luther King did this
in hopes that we as a nation would see people for who
and what they are, and not judge people by the
color of their skin. There are many words I
could use to describe this unique
individual, but I don’t think they would or could sum up
to what a remarkable person he was. To those of you who
have known Dr. King, you are blessed through
your memories of him. But for teenagers like myself
and the children of the future, I pray that Martin Luther
King’s dream lives on. And so, I leave you with a
quote from Dr. King’s address, The American Dream. And there is
another thing we see in this dream that ultimately
distinguishes democracy and our form of government
from all the totalitarian regions that emerge in history. It says that each individual
has certain basic rights that are neither conferred by, nor
derived from its necessary– from the state. To discover where
they came from, it is necessary to move
back behind the dim mist of eternity, for
they are God-given. Very seldom, if ever in
the history of the world, has social political
document expressed in such a profoundly eloquent
and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth
of human personality. The American dream reminds
us that each man is heir to a legacy or worthiness. So please sit back
and relax as you focus on today’s
celebration theme, the trumpet of conscience. Dr. Martin Luther King’s
contract with America. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] LAWRENCE: Allow me to bring your
attention to Chris Richman, who is a student in the
Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. He will accompany us as we
stand together and sing, Lift Every Voice and Sing. We’re going to sing the
first and third verses, and the words are printed
on the back of your program. [MUSIC – “LIFT EVERY VOICE AND
SING”] I am pleased to announce
that another segment has been added to our program. And that is the presentation of
the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Leadership Award. This award is presented
to MIT graduates who have distinguished themselves
by incorporating Dr. King’s legacy in their
professional careers, and through community action. The award committee
also recognizes individuals and groups
within the MIT community whose achievements exemplify
the ideals of Dr. King by their contribution to MIT,
and the broader community. At this time, I call upon
Provost Mark Wrighton to make the first presentation
to Professor Robert Mann. [APPLAUSE] WRIGHTON: It’s a
great honor for me to make the first presentation
of this important series of awards, and to such a
distinguished individual as Dr. Robert W Mann. I’d like to ask Dr.
Mann to come forward as I introduce him to you. He will be making a few
remarks in just a moment. Dr. Mann is a
longtime contributor to the MIT community, retiring
only just a couple of years ago as Whittaker Professor. He continues a very
active set of activities on behalf of the Institute,
and in his personal life. He began an interest
in technical activities early on in his life. He graduated in 1942 from the
Brooklyn Technical High School. As you can appreciate,
1942 was a difficult time for the country. He went to work
shortly thereafter as a draftsman at the
Bell Laboratories, and then joined
the army in 1943. In 1946, he concluded
his service in the Army, having worked in the teletype
and cryptographic maintenance activities in the
Western Pacific Theater. And then he commenced what
became a truly distinguished career at MIT. He received his
bachelor’s degree in 1950, continued on for
the master’s degree, and concluded in terms
of formal education with a Doctor of
Science in 1957. Already a member of the faculty
for several years by that time, he was promoted up through
the ranks and concluded his career– as I’ve indicated– as Whittaker professor. During this
distinguished career, he became extremely
well recognized for his contributions
in the Department of Mechanical Engineering as an
educator and as a researcher. He was named to the National
Academy of Sciences, the National Academy
of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine. Just several of his
distinguished honors. Here at MIT, he received the
Killian Faculty Achievement Award– our highest award
for the faculty– in 1983. And in 1983 to 1984, he
served the Alumni Association as its president. He has more than 320
publications, several patents, and a number of his activities
in the professional arena have contributed
to aiding the blind and assisting the disabled. His work in biomechanics
can be credited with creating an entire new
field of human endeavor. Professor Mann has also been
a very important contributor to his community. In the town of Lexington, he
served as a member of the town meeting from 1954 through 1958. He was director of
the interfaith Housing Corporation for 10 years. And he has continued that
kind of service within the MIT community as well. In recognizing him as a Martin
Luther King Jr Leadership Awardee, we recognize a
large number of years, and an enormous amount
of service in connection with these celebratory events. Indeed, a few years
back, at a time when this activity
was at a low point, he encouraged then
president Paul Gray to reinvigorate this program. And Robert Mann can be credited
with the enormous success that we have realized now
for more than 20 years. Let me now make the
award presentation. The Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Leadership Award
is presented to Doctor Robert W Mann, class of
1950 at MIT, whose achievements and
contributions exemplify the ideals of Dr. King. February 10, 1995. [APPLAUSE] MANN: I am, of course,
greatly pleased and honored, in fact, humble in addressing
you after that introduction, and with the significance
of the first time recipient as a faculty member
of this recognition. And I had a little notice, and
I’m told I have two minutes, and I debated a bit as to
quite how to handle that. I haven’t vetted the most
recent version with my wife, but let me try it this way. The suggestion was that I
relate aspects of my career that overlapped that of
the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I had the great privilege– not many of you out
there I think can share, certainly the young
people can’t– of personally having
heard Dr. Martin Luther King when he addressed
the people of Lexington in the 1960s at the
Lexington High School. But I think we share some
other dimensions, which I am convinced has put
me here in this position with this recognition today. To begin with, we both
come out of a tradition– a religious tradition– that is
entering its third millennia, which is committed to the
belief that every human being from conception on is a unique
individual, and as such, is deserving of the respect
of all other human beings. We perhaps have somewhat of a
shared experience in origins. I grew up in a tough
but nevertheless, multicultural and multireligious
section of Brooklyn, New York, East New York. And early on, was aware of the
variety of colors and religions and postures that people had, So as I accept
this award, I guess I want to say I do so
with the realization that it was easy for me– relatively easy for me– to experience the
kind of opportunities that I had, or capture– utilize the kind
of opportunities that were presented
to me because of this background of
both religious conviction, and of early development. These were of course, greatly
strengthened and matured through my now almost 45 years
association with Margaret Mann. And very exciting
years in the 60s when Vatican II was in process,
when Martin Luther King was on the march that
you all know about, when our curates in
our parish in Lexington were arrested for marching
in North Carolina. It was a very exciting time. So it’s easy for me to have
played the role that I have. And what I want to do
is accept the award in the name of all of
you there and elsewhere who could equally well be
here with me, or replacing me on this occasion. Many of you whom have not had
the same kind of opportunity and development,
maturation, motivations that I have had the
privilege of enjoying as I have pursued the various
activities that Provost Wrighton has so
graciously described. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] LAWRENCE: Now I will ask
President Vest to present the award to Dr.
Cynthia McIntyre, and to AISES, NSBE, and SHPE. VEST: Dr. McIntyre, would
you like to join me? It’s my pleasure and privilege
to present four additional 1995 Martin Luther King Jr
Leadership Awards, which are being given– as you know–
for the first time this year. The Martin Luther King
committee developed this concept to recognize past and present
members of the MIT community whose activities exemplify
the ideals of Dr. King. This year, we are presenting
awards both to individuals, and to student groups. The individual recipient
is Dr. Cynthia McIntyre. Why don’t you step
out into the light? Not back in the shadows. Thank you. Dr. McIntyre pursued her
PhD research here at MIT in the area of condensed
matter physics. In addition to
her academic work, Dr. McIntyre served as a member
of the Physics Graduate Student Graduate Committee, and also as
a resident dormitory counselor. However, one of her
primary contributions was originating and organizing
the National Conference of Black Physics Students. She had noted the small
number of black physicists in both academia and
industry, and wanted to increase that number by
reaching out to students still in the initial stages
of their academic careers. The conference brought together
undergraduate physics students from colleges and
universities nationwide to discuss career options
and career strategies. The conference was a
resounding success, and since has become
an annual event held at different universities
around the country, with attendance
rising to over 200. Dr. McIntyre has provided
leadership, vision, and support for the conference throughout
this entire period, and has done so with her
characteristic energy, creativity, and
above all, passion for making a difference in
the lives of young people, and of somewhat
older institutions. Dr. McIntyre, it’s
truly a pleasure to present this plaque to
you and the accompanying honorarium. [APPLAUSE] The Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr Leadership Award, presented to Dr. Cynthia
R McIntyre, class of ’90, whose achievements
and contributions exemplify the
ideals of Dr. King. 10 February. 1995. MCINTYRE: Thank you. VEST: My thanks,
and congratulations. MCINTYRE: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I’d like to thank the
committee for selecting me for this honor. I’m very grateful and
proud to have this. One thing I wanted to say– Leo told me that I have one
minute to speak on this– is that Dr. King’s legacy
head a tremendous impact on our educational system,
particularly higher education. You can see
throughout the country that our universities
are quite diverse. Whereas 20 to 30 years ago,
the dominant institutions, academic institutions,
did not have a substantial number of minority
students in their programs. But now they do, and that’s
part of Dr. King’s legacy. Another part of
Dr. King’s legacy is the growth of
the number of PhDs in physics over the 20 year
or so period since the 60s and 70s. During that time, the physics
department here at MIT made a commitment that they
would have black students in their PhD program. And so during that time,
they graduated quite a few. And a lot of you don’t
know the statistics, but if you delved
in a little bit, you would find
out that there are three institutions
in the United States that have graduated
most of the PhD– black PhDs in physics. And MIT is one of those schools. The other is Howard University,
and the other one is Stanford. So MIT has made a
tremendous contribution to the black
scientific community in the area of physics. When I was here as a graduate
student, a group of us got together and decided
to put on this conference. And we said, well, how are
we going to pull this off? We need money. We need money, and we need
money to get students here, and to get this started. So what we did, we had
a little plan together. And we went to the chairman
of our department, Dr. Jerome Freeman. Would you stand up, please? [APPLAUSE] And we said Dr. Freeman, we
want to put on this conference. It’s a national conference. We think we can get maybe 40
or 50 students here for this, and here’s a budget for it. He didn’t say, well, come
back tomorrow, next week. He said, it’s done. We’ll do this. I’m calling the dean– who
at the time was Gene Brown. He said, I’m sure the dean
is going to back this. From the physics department,
you have a commitment today. I will get back to
you tomorrow and let you know what the dean said. And we’ve been off and
running ever since. Thank you. Thank you for your support. [APPLAUSE] VEST: Could I ask the three
presidents to join me now, please? All three of you. Three professional organizations
also were nominated for awards. These are the American Indian
Science and Engineering Society, The National
Society of Black engineers, and The Society of Hispanic
Professional Engineers. Since 1990, these
three organizations have jointly sponsored
a career fair at MIT for the
entire student body. The event has become the
largest student-sponsored career fair at the Institute. The sixth fair will be
held later this month on February 23, and 24. These three organizations
representing students from various ethnic groups
have worked together for the benefit of the
entire student body. They show by example what can be
done when different groups work together for common goals. And David Shaw, associate
director of the Office for Career Services and
Professional Advising said of these groups– and I quote– “Their effort and
cooperation have exceeded most other
professional organizations that I’ve advised over
the past 25 years.” I would say that
this is the case. The whole is truly more
than the sum of its parts, and we are all
the better for it. I’m very pleased to
have the privilege to present plaques and
honoraria to the presidents of these three groups. To Stephen T York of the
American Indian Science– and Science Engineering Society. YORK: [INAUDIBLE] VEST: To Charita D
Williams of The National Society of Black engineers. And to Jeff O Gonzales of
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. GONZALES: Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] VEST: Congratulations
to all of you. YORK: Thank you President
Vest for the award on behalf of AISES. My name is Todd York,
president of the MIT chapter of the American
Indian Science and Engineering Society. Currently, I’m a junior
in chemical engineering. First, let me give you
some background information on the beginnings
of the career fair. The idea for the career fair
came about from a mutual need between our respective
communities and one administrator. We three organizations– AISES, NSBE, and SHPE– felt that we should
provide our members and the MIT community
with opportunities beyond their academic
life at the Institute. These would include graduate
school, a necessary component for students of color to succeed
in the workforce, and job opportunities with government
and private organizations. The career fair would be
a combination of events throughout the academic year. As organizations, we knew that
the success of our members would not only depend
on information received in the career fair, but also
in the development of skills that can be used in
a variety of fields. With the resources
of the Institute, we would assist our members
with national fellowships for graduate school,
resume writing skills, and interviewing techniques. It would also be important
for all three organizations to work together as a group to
maximize Institute resources, and more importantly, to
learn from each other. It would be this
cooperation from these three very different professional
organizations that would be critical to the
success of the career fair. Once again, on behalf of AISES. Let me thank the president
and the planning committee for this Leadership Award. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] WILLIAMS: Good
afternoon, everyone. My name is Charita Williams. I’m president of the MIT
chapter of the National Society of Black
Engineers, and a junior in electrical engineering. I would like to share with you
the uniqueness of the career fair and how it relates
to Dr. King’s legacy. Our minority career
fair is a joint effort between three very
different organizations, each with his own mission,
membership, and programs. Still, we have crossed
social barriers and put aside
individual differences to come together and
produce the single most important financial event for
each of our organizations. Each group shares both the
responsibilities and rewards every February, when over
60 companies come to MIT seeking their future leaders. The membership of
AISES, NSBE, and SHPE are truly helping to fulfill
Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. Because part of the
dream is for people of different ethnic
backgrounds to work together as brothers and sisters toward
common goals and share success. Our collaboration
for the career fair is not our only
testament of dedication towards this brotherhood. We’ve also worked together to
host a very successful social for the entire
minority community, and we’ve joined forces
several times recently to address problems common to
the minority community MIT. Although we still
have a long way to go before we see
African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Hispanics
sitting together for lunch, we have made
significant progress in reaching out to one
another for common issues. Again, I would like
to thank everyone on behalf of NSBE,
AISES, and SHPE for recognizing our
efforts with this award. [APPLAUSE] GONZALES: Again, my
name is Jeff Gonzalez. I’m the president of SHPE,
the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. A dream is a beautiful
vision that– a dream is a
beautiful vision that looks beyond what you can see,
then lifts you and guides you and grows strong inside you
to help you be all you can be. As we approach the 27th
anniversary of Dr. King’s passing, we still are looking
to achieve his dream as we confront obstacles in our way. It is the role of organizations
such as AISES, NSBE, and SHPE to show that we can
work cooperatively to lead the way in
removing these barriers. Dr. King’s legacy has
given us an opportunity to learn at an institution
as renowned as MIT. I feel it is our obligation
to continue his ideals and assist those
who will follow. However, I don’t always
see the sense of commitment from my fellow students. To reverse this, we must follow
Dr. King’s dreams and ideals. Because as he stated, freedom
is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded
by the oppressed. On behalf of AISES,
NSBE, and SHPE, we would like to thank President
Vest and his planning committee for the Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr celebration activities for this Leadership Award. We also like to thank
our respective advisors and other members of
the three organizations, past and present. And finally, I invite you to
attend our six annual career fair to be held February 24
at Dupont Gymnasium from 12:00 to 6:00 PM. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] LAWRENCE: It is my pleasure
to introduce Professor Markus Thompson, who was the first
recipient of the Robert R Taylor Professorship. Today, he’ll be
joined by MIT students to perform the musical
selection, Music of Morning. The students that
will be joining him are Julia Ogrydziak, Donald
young, Danny Yu, Joel Dawson, Leonard Kim, and David Reilly. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC – “MUSIC OF MORNING”] [APPLAUSE] Thank you. That was amazing. [APPLAUSE] At this time, I’d like to
invite President Vest to give his welcome remarks, and he will
introduce our keynote speaker. VEST: As I look
over the past year, I can take note of several
people and programs that make this celebration
much more than simply a one day event. Some are causes for
celebration, and all our causes for inspiration. Inspiration to work harder,
and to work together to achieve a greater racial and
ethnic harmony, and a greater social and economic
justice in our society. I suggest that we dedicate
this year’s ceremony to one such source of inspiration. To Bill Ramsey, whose death
last month was so unexpected. Bill was executive director
of special programs in the School of Engineering. In particular, he
was responsible for the administration
of the MITES program, which stands for Minority
Introduction to Engineering and Science. And the engineering
internship program, in which students
combine academic programs with on the job experience. Bill was the very model of
dedication, professionalism, honesty, caring, and fairness. He was a mentor and a role
model to literally hundreds of our students. Their success and contributions
to society are Bill’s legacy. His death is a tragic loss to
his many friends and family here, and to this
institution as well. Bill’s work and
his way of working are sources of
inspiration to all who strive for a better society. Our society, of course, begins
right here on our campus. This is where we begin. And what I think we need to
do much more than we have been doing is to build coalitions
among the individual groups that make up our community. Because working for
equity and justice is not the responsibility
of any one person, or any one organization,
or any one cultural group. In fact, we simply won’t
succeed if different groups, whether African-Americans,
Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans,
or white Americans work on these issues in
isolation from each other. Now, working together in
coalitions is not always– indeed, not often– a
comfortable experience. It means that you
bring your ideas and your interests to
the table, of course, but that they don’t
carry any more weight than those of the others. It means that some interests may
be in conflict with each other. It means having to
listen, really listen, to what others say
about their experiences and their expectations. It means learning
from differences. It means learning to
trust, and then working to find common ground. This is hard work, so
why should we do it? The answer is simple. There is no other way. There are those who
ask why we should bother trying to build racial
and ethnic relations at all. Why not just live and let live? I would guess that different
people have different answers to that question. But for me, the answer
is quite simple. We need each other. There are more problem
in the world than there is time to list them. But one thing is clear,
successful resolution of the problems getting in
the way of social equity, economic justice, public
health, or environmental health just to name a few, requires
people to work together. You can’t solve the
problems of this complexity and this magnitude
and scale by yourself, whether you refers to a single
organization, a profession, a class, or even a race. We are realizing this
more and more in the way we teach and learn. Not only is learning in teams,
whether it be in the 270 design contest, or the team’s
work experimental program in chemistry, often
more effective is much more like the world
in which our students will live and work after graduation. So yes, we need each other. Not only to solve
problems, but to grow. To grow in our understanding
of the world around us, and the world within us. Everyone in this room can
expect to live and work in a world filled with people
of different cultures, races, and nationalities,
whether you stay right here at the Institute, or
live halfway around the world. If we are to make the
most of this world and what it has to
offer, professionally, socially, and ethnically,
we need each other. And it’s worth the struggle. It’s worth the work. I believe very much it’s an
investment that will pay off. There are many on this
campus who are making just this kind of investment. One, of course,
as you see today, is the planning committee for
the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial activities. These men and women from
many parts of the Institute do not see change
in narrow terms. Not only do they plan
this annual ceremony, as you’ve heard, they
initiated the awards program that we just inaugurated. And it was their
proposal that led to the very recently announced
Martin Luther King Jr Visiting Professor Program. The goal of this program
is to enhance and recognize the contributions
of minority scholars by increasing their presence
and interaction here on the MIT campus. We hope to appoint several such
visiting scholars each year. We expect that they will
deeply engaged themselves in the intellectual
life of the Institute through teaching, public
lectures, seminars, research, and scholarship. This program will have
a significant effect on the number of
minority scholars who join our faculty ultimately
on a permanent basis. Another group that is making a
solid investment in our future as a campus community
is the Committee on Campus Race Relations. MIT announced the
establishment of this committee at last year’s Martin
Luther King ceremony. In its first year,
the committee, drawn from a broad
cross-section of our community, has done a great
deal to help build the very kinds of
coalitions I’ve mentioned, beginning with its
own membership. Beyond that, it has
published a guide to studies in racial, ethnic,
and intercultural relations at MIT. A document that is, in itself,
an impressive indication of faculty commitment
and student interest in these areas. The committee also has
established a grants program, which even in its first year,
has funded lecturers, arts activities, cultural and ethnic
events, dorm-based activities, workshops, conferences,
and undergraduate seminars, all with the underlying
aim of enhancing race relations on our campus. These are but two small
examples of the work that we all need to do. There are many, many
others, as you know. But we need still more
people to make the commitment and to make the investment
that will turn our campus ever increasingly into
a true community. And now it is a very
special privilege to introduce today’s keynote
speaker, a man of many facets who has devoted his career to
the pursuit of racial harmony, equity, and justice. It is truly a great honor
to have Professor A Leon Higginbotham with us today. He is, of course, a truly
distinguished jurist. The Chief Judge emeritus
of the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third District. But he is also a
teacher and a scholar. Currently, he’s public service
professor of jurisprudence at Harvard University. And he has served as an
adjunct faculty member at several leading universities
throughout our nation. He is an author and a historian. His book, In the
Matter of Color, Race and the American Legal
Process, The Colonial Period, received several national
and international awards for the quality of
its scholarship. He continues his association
with the practice of law serving as counsel to Paul,
Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in New York’s– in their New York and
Washington offices. Let me say finally– and rather personally–
that Professor Higginbotham is a true friend and
colleague to our institution. Many here today will recall that
a few years ago, the Justice Department brought an
antitrust action against MIT and the Ivy League universities,
alleging collusion in the way we awarded financial
aid to students. We on the other hand,
argued that our practices sought to ensure
that students would be awarded financial aid solely
on the basis of their need. And that different
schools would not get into financial
bidding wars for students. We lost in the first
round of that legal battle back in the fall of
’92, but we appealed it. And that’s where Leon
Higginbotham stepped forward. He had retired earlier in that
year from the appeals court in Philadelphia, which in fact,
was the one hearing the case. He returned to appear before
that very court on behalf of the Philadelphia
School System, the Urban League
of Philadelphia, and the Coalition of Bar
Associations of Hispanic, Black, and Asian-American
Attorneys in the Philadelphia area. These groups– I quote Judge
Higginbotham as saying– “These groups are the
counsel for the interests of those bright and
very needy students who would be most adversely affected
by the lower court ruling.” He told the panel
of judges, “We have in this case public
service and ethical norms. And what are those
ethical norms? They are that those
people who are weak and those people who are
poor but who are talented should have the same
opportunity to have an entry into these
great universities as did the Kennedys,
and the Rockefellers, and the Cabots, and the Lodges.” This concern for
ethics and equity permeates Leon Hornbeam’s
life and his work. He will speak to us today
of a contract with America that we would do well
as a nation to honor. It is Martin Luther King’s
contract with America. Ladies and gentlemen,
please join me in welcoming Judge
Leon Higginbotham. [APPLAUSE] HIGGINBOTHAM: Dr.
Vest, Provost Wrighton, the members of the
MIT community who have made such a
significant difference. I was profoundly moved in
a way in which I seldom am when Dr. McIntyre mentioned
the chairman of the physics department has said, it’s done. Because it’s a classic example
of what administrators can do. They can help us
solve the problem, or they can filibuster
as to why it is so impossible to solve it. At the age of 16 years old,
I was interested in physics. And I was interested in
electrical engineering. And I had, as a poor
boy, the temerity to believe that I could make
a difference as an engineer. And I went to Purdue University. And at Purdue, there were 13– as we called them
then– colored, or maybe Negro, but
never black students. And we stayed at a place which
was called International House. International? All the black kids at
an International House? Well, let me tell you
about the luxury we had in the International House. We all slept in an
attic with no heat. And during those bracing,
terrible, biting winter nights, we’d go up to bed with
shoes on, earmuffs, two or three layers of pants,
and hoping that we would then be able to be warm
enough the next morning to go and study about
the dechlorination of chlortetracycline, and to
study all of the challenges which we had. One night, I felt that I
could not stand another day. And I talked to my
fellow students, and suggested that we should
visit Dr. Elliott, who was then president of the university. I won’t get into
the side details. Everyone was unanimous that
a protest should take place, that I should be chairman,
and we would all show up. Well, I went and I
arranged the appointment. And then the next day, I went
15 minutes before the time I was supposed to meet the president. My one shirt was
ironed, I had done it. My shoes polished. My fingernails clean. My mother– who was a domestic– had always stressed
upon me of making the best of what you have. And I went in to
see Dr. Elliott. It was 10 of 10:00. It was five of 10:00. It was three of 10:00. And all of these
militant students who were going to meet
me there for some reason got tied up in some
lab or something. And here I am,
meeting the president. He says, Higginbotham,
what do you want? It wasn’t welcome. And I said, Dr.
Elliott, every day colored soldiers
are dying fighting Hitler and Hirohito for what
President Roosevelt calls the four freedoms. And we are freezing
in that dorm. And we want to be good students. Is it possible that we could
have a section of the dorm? I wasn’t pressing to get
the place integrated. Just a section of the dorm where
we could be like the others and be warm. Elliott looked at me
and said, Higginbotham, the law doesn’t require
us to have you here. You either take it or leave it. And I walked out recognizing
the profound contradictions. The preamble of the
Constitution said we the people of the United States. But in Dr. Elliott’s eyes,
they were we the people, and we the other people. And I was part of
the other people. And ultimately, I left– though I was performing
quite well academically– and transferred
to Antioch College and went on to Yale Law School. If Dr. Elliot had
said to me what the chairman of your
physics department heads said, good morning. I would have felt
a little better. And if he had even said to
me, well, Higginbotham, I don’t know whether we
can do it, but we should. Blunt no. And when I sometimes
think of why there aren’t more scientists
and more engineers today, it’s because of the
experiences which so many of us had in the 1940s. It did not seem to
be a viable option. So when MIT got involved
with its difficulties, when the United States
Department of Justice, when it had the opportunity
to challenge all of these mergers going
on with conglomerates, global conglomerates, and
did not challenge them, and as the country was
becoming more oligopolistic all of the time, Dick Thornburg, the
Attorney General of the United States, a few weeks before he’s
about ready to resign and run for Senator of Pennsylvania,
filed suit against the Ivy League schools challenging the
type of arrangement they had. Which I assure you meant
that need came first, and therefore, if
you base it on need, more and more students
could come in. Need for students who had
already been accepted. And for some strange reason
which I shall never know, the Department of Justice
during the Bush administration prosecuted the eight Ivy
League schools and MIT. And in the speech– which
I will give for your book– I have the extensive
comments of the newspapers throughout the country,
which looked at this suit and thought that
it was incredulous. The New York Times
described the suit as a destructive claim
unworthy of litigation. The Washington Post said
that the case against the Ivy League and its friends
may be good sport, but it’s bad policy. The Los Angeles Times in
an editorial on May 24 called it pure lunacy. And The Boston Globe
characterized it as a twisted interpretation
of the Sherman Act. And I could go on. Yet, when I was approached,
the case had not been won. Even though you had the
most able and extraordinary attorneys representing MIT,
who had made arguments which I submit to you were irrefutable. And when it was
suggested that maybe that I would go in as counsel
for the [INAUDIBLE],, pro bono publico, that means
for the public good. And I’m pleased to say,
without any compensation. And I thought that this
was an opportunity for me to say to a school which was
treating students differently than the way Dr.
Elliott treated me that you are on the right path. And that pluralism is
important in America. And that if you allow this
antitrust suit to prevail, would mean that children
who are needy, or students who are needy, who could not
meet the extraordinary tuition may not make it. Because if you just distribute
the pot in some random fashion, one person may be getting
15,000 when they only need 10. And if you keep doing
that for several, it means that on the
other end, in a world of limited resources, those
who are poor and needy would drop out. And we were fortunate
enough to be successful. Last year was a
great year for me. My two most important
clients did not pay me. MIT, and Nelson Mandela. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] But both have made profound
differences in this world. I don’t know why my good
friend Clarence Williams was so generous to ask me to
come back here to speak again. I’ve been in this
auditorium more than once. I spoke at your tribute 13 years
ago for Martin Luther King. And at that time,
Ronald Reagan was in his first term as president. At that time, no one knew then
that Dan Quayle did not know how to spell the word potato. [LAUGHTER] And at that time,
William Jefferson Clinton was not known
outside of Arkansas. The Soviet Union was still
a formidable adversary. And Nelson Mandela was serving
the 19th year of his lifetime sentence breaking and chipping
stone at the cruel Robben Island Penitentiary. And in 1983, I thought
that even then, that the conditions for the
weak and the poor were bleak. And I was not convinced
that that safety net which President Reagan had
assured us was there would be holding up the
homeless, the hungry, and the poor. And I said, how
can you talk to one of the most sophisticated
audiences in the world? You’ve got to not harangue them. And how can you give them
something which we can all relate to in abstract? So I asked the audience
to imagine and to assume that the MIT Department of
Astronomy was the most able in the world. And there were no dissents. And I suggested to them
that maybe it was possible that this great department
had developed the capacity to do electronic
eavesdropping in Heaven. That place I would not
take time to define, and if you don’t know where
it is, and you don’t believe there is a Heaven, it
would be a waste of my time to stress it to you. But then I worked
up a conversation an imaginary conversation. It was a fantasy, I know, that
your extraordinary department had gotten the electronic
eavesdropping system working. And then we heard a conversation
between Martin Luther King and Tom Jefferson. We heard King speaking
to Thomas Jefferson. He said, Mr. Jefferson, since
we have such equality here in Heaven, do you mind
if I call you Tom? Now, Tom, how is
it that individuals who are as philosophical and
profound as you, and as brave as George Washington, and
as eloquent as Patrick Henry could treat an entire
group of people– non-whites– with such
special harshness and cruelty solely because of the
color of their skin? And there is this fascinating
dialogue where Jefferson admits that he was wrong. And he thanked Saint Peter for
the Affirmative Action program they had in Heaven. [LAUGHTER] To bring a little
more diversity, and to get some
lawyers and politicians in there, because there
was such a shortage. And now, 13 years later,
I stand before you, in the presence of an audience
equally as sophisticated. And I did not know what I
could say, what I should say. But yesterday morning, I had
another mystical and miraculous experience. I give it to you with
some trepidation, because I don’t know how
many of you are believers. But I was reading the paper
while drinking a cup of coffee in my study. I had the television on CNN. I was reading about
the OJ Simpson case. And then I gradually
became aware that the television
in front of me had stopped transmitting
its usual message. I am so cheap that I have a
black and white television in my study. Instead, the screen
was multi-colored. And as I tried to fine-tune
the screen by playing around with the remote
control, suddenly, there were a series of scenes
which began to unfold. And I saw the image of a white
building framed with columns and surrounded by greenery. The camera started to
move towards the building and suddenly, I had a
view of the interior. And in the interior it had
on it the Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall
seminar room in Heaven. And the door swung open as
if by some mysterious force, and inside, I saw the
interior of this seminar room. And on the blackboard
written in huge black letters were the following,
seminar at noon today. Martin Luther King, speaker. Thurgood Marshall, moderator. A Leon Higginbotham,
junior transmitter. And I could not believe my eyes. Here was King on the podium. And in the audience were people
whom I admired so greatly. Sojouner Truth, and Earl Warren,
and Charles Hamilton Houston, William Henry Hastie,
and Abraham Lincoln, and a whole series
of individuals– Rabbi Prinz– who’ve
made a great difference. And as I saw this,
I started to wonder, was I going through
some unusual syndrome? My wife had been telling me
that I’m working too hard. And then after seeing
this, my fax machine went on automatically. And we always have white paper. And coming out on our fax
machine was blue paper. And the fonts were
larger than any I thought our fax had a capacity for. And on the front page there were
just two words, from Heaven. And on the second page
in slightly smaller type was the byline, for
Martin Luther King Jr entering class of 1968. The printer was going so
fast that the paper was almost ablaze. It was so hot that I could not
hold it comfortably in my hand. And nevertheless,
I’d read every word. And Just after I finished the
last page, suddenly, whiff. All of the ink disappeared. The paper started to
disintegrate into ashes. And the TV screen reverted
back, making reference to the next day
of trial with OJ. Dazed and confused,
I rushed to my desk and started scribbling
down the miraculous events I just witnessed. Now, I cannot provide
you any documentation, any independent covert
corroboration to what I saw from Heaven on my TV screen. And the fax paper
went into ashes, which cannot be reconstructed. But I’m confident that I saw
Martin Luther King speak. And through the television, I
received a commentary from him that he wants me to transmit
to you, and to Newt Gingrich. [LAUGHTER] And it is exactly what
I would’ve expected to see and hear from Dr. King. And let me describe
to you how it starts. My dear brothers and sisters,
I prepared my commentary for this afternoon
as an open letter to my fellow citizen of
Georgia, Newt Gingrich. And I’m hoping that my old
friend Leon Higginbotham will forward it to
him soon, and deliver the substance of my comment
in his lecture today at MIT. More important, I hope
thoughtful Americans will recognize what
may very well be one of the most tragic hopes
and potential cruelties that could take place in America,
and to what Mr. Gingrich calls the Contract with America. The letter goes,
dear Mr. Gingrich, as a citizen of
Georgia, presumably, I should first congratulate
you on your election to Speaker of the House. This is an extraordinary
opportunity for you to increase the quality
of justice and fairness for all Americans. At the same time,
it also provides you with the opportunity to
further polarized our nation, to make us meaner than
we’ve ever been before, and to disregard the
plight of the weak and the poor who do not
have political clout. It is within your power to
make our nation either more fair than it’s ever
been in recent decades, or to make it more mean. Particularly upon the powerless
victims of our nation. You can exalt us to
become a great nation. You can cause us to become an
increasingly divisive nation. And thus, I read every
page of your Contract with America by you and
representative Dick Armey– who does not always
speak well of individuals whom he disagrees with. And what I notice, what’s
on the back of your book, you seem to say
what the issues are. In fact, that’s
the word you use. Among the pressing
issues addressed in this important book
are balancing the budget, stopping crime, reforming
welfare, reinforcing families, enhancing fairness for seniors,
strengthening national defense, cutting government regulation,
promoting legal reform, considering term
limits, reducing taxes. And I went through
every page of your book. And let me make it perfectly
clear, I’m against crime, and I favor fair
law enforcement, and I favor the work ethic. For our people gave
to this country two centuries of labor
without a paycheck. And we have worked– most of us– whenever we could
find it to make the world brighter for the future. And I recognize that there
may be some abuses of welfare. And that to the extent, that
those abuses can be eliminated. I favor that. But what scared me so much is
I looked at all of the issues which you said that were
important in this so-called Contract with America. Not once do you say that
you want to eradicate racial discrimination. Not once did you say that
you want to eradicate gender discrimination. Not once do you say
that we recognize that when Thomas Jefferson
said we hold these truths to be self-evident that all
men are created equal and they are endowed
by their creator with certain inalienable rights,
and among these are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness, not once do you say Jefferson
made the pledge, and he failed. Because when he said
men, he meant all men. Not women. When he said men, he
meant men, not women. But when he said men, he did not
include those who were black. And therefore, I wanted
to see with your reference to all of the historic
figures, that you would have in all
of those chapters just one which said that
you are for a fair society for the powerless. And the only time
you use fairness in your entire
table of contents is fairness for senior citizens. That disturbs me. It’s not that I want
unfairness for senior citizens, but you talk in terms
of the good old days. Now, Newt, you know you and
I are both from Georgia. And I’ve got to figure out
when were these good old days about which you speak. I’d suggest that you
go and read a case called Cummings versus
Richmond County, Georgia. And in 1899, that county closed
up the only black high school in the county because
it said that if it spent the money for the
kids in a high school, it wouldn’t be able to
put on a budget for 400 elementary school kids
to get an education. You funded high school
for all white girls, and you subsidize a high
school for white boys. But in Georgia, the state
was willing to eliminate educational opportunities. And it wasn’t until
the late 1920s in the whole state
of Georgia that there was one public high school
open for colored people. And I would have
felt so much better if you had spoken,
recognizing something about the corridor of history. And saying that you stood
firm in condemnation of those abuses, and that
the federal resources should be utilized to stop
it from perpetuate– from being continued. Now, I know, Newt, you have
never had to be denied service at a Woolworth five and $0.10
store when you went in to get a hot dog or a bottle of Coke. But for hundreds of thousands
of black people throughout our land– and
particularly in the South– they couldn’t even get a
hot dog and a bottle of soda if they wanted to sit at the
counter at these lunch counters throughout. I would think that you would
be concerned about that. And knowing this history, that
you would be willing to make it clear where you stood. Now, maybe you say that
I’m getting too anxious. Maybe you say that I
don’t know what happened. And America, what
I know is that when we were marching to get
access to public accommodation and the sheriff
dogs were biting us, and sheriff’s hoses were being
put on us, George Bush in 1964 said he was against
the Civil Rights Act. And Ronald Reagan
in ’64 and said he was against the
Civil Rights Act. And Strom Thurmond said he was
against the Civil Rights Act, all claiming that it
was unconstitutional. Therefore does your contract
mean to turn back to America to the world which Thurmond,
and Bush, and Reagan wanted in 1964? You never had to march
from Selma to Montgomery to make a poignant plea that
all citizens should be protected by the 15th Amendment, and
should have the right to vote. And what I want to
do is to ask you, where does your contract stand? And what was so
fascinating to me was that as you talked about
enhancing fairness for seniors, I saw nothing about enhancing
fairness for children. And let’s look at the record. A higher proportion
of babies are born at low birth weight
in the United States than in 31 other countries,
including Romania, Greece, Turkey, and Portugal. The United States ranks 19th
among developed countries for infant mortality rates. The United States ranks
17th among all nations in the percentage of
one-year-olds who are fully immunized against polio. We’re only 17th. We’re behind Romania,
Albania, Greece, North Korea, and Pakistan. And in some American
cities, between 10 to 42% of the children
starting school have not received critical immunization. on time. And I’m reading from government
data which no one challenges. And our polio immunization
for children of color ranks just 70th in the world. This country, where
the polio vaccine was discovered where the
great pharmaceutical companies distribute it, where we brag
about having some of the finest research physicians
in the world, and we are 70th in the world. I’m frightened by
your contract, Newt. But let me point out a
couple other facts to you. I’m for the work ethic. But what is your
answer for the fact that the number of
people living in poverty was reported last
year to have risen to 14.7% of the
entire population? A rise for the
third straight year. What is your answer
to the poverty rate among
African-Americans was 33%, and for Hispanics, over 29%? And what is your
response to the fact that one of four American
children live in poverty? Aren’t those 25% of
our kids entitled to at least a page in your book
about fairness for children? In the third quarter
of last year, the national unemployment
rate was approximately 6.6%. But for
African-Americans, 12.6%. According to the
National Urban League, because of the total
underemployment, that it was probably
13% unemployment, to 23% unemployment. Where is the contract of America
going to give us some solace? I hope that you will
read Barbra Streisand’s extraordinary and brilliant
speech given at the Kennedy School last week. We are– we’ve got a fine
communication system up here in Heaven. We pick up all of the shows
and all of the documentaries. And this is what she said,
we are all normal Americans with our problems
and complexities, including people
in my community. This notion of normal America
has a horrible historical echo. It presupposes that there
are abnormal Americans who are responsible for
all that is wrong. The new scapegoats
are members of what Gingrich calls the
counterculture McGovernicks. She concludes, I did concerts
for George McGovern in 1972, and I still think that he
would have made a better president than Richard Nixon. I’m disappointed that
I’ve read so little in defense of McGovern. Was McGovern countercultural? The son of a Republican
Methodist minister, has been married to the
same woman for 51 years, and flew 35 combat
missions in World War II. Isn’t it odd that his patriotism
be disputed by a person who never served in the military? And his own family history can
hardly be called exemplary. These are tough
words, Mr. Speaker. But yet, I think they
have great relevance. Black people are scared,
profoundly scared when you talk about
Contract with America. Because there were contracts
which caused us to come over and slave ships. There were contracts
which caused mothers to lose their children
at slave auctions as masters sold kids,
where a mother would never see her child. And these sales of human
beings were contracts, and were legitimized. So therefore, Mr. Speaker,
what I really hope is that you understand
the words equity. That you have a
feel for justice. So that those who
are weak, and those who are poor, that those who
have no political constituency can be the beneficiaries
of America’s extraordinary resources. And I don’t know whether,
Mr. Speaker, I can reach you. And maybe I can’t. You’ve got a successful formula. You’ve got more white males
voting for you than ever. Somehow or another,
they seem to feel that they’re being cut out. But I think to
some extent, what I would hope that those people who
say they believed in my dream, that they would remember the
extraordinary message which Rabbi Prinz gave as
he spoke at the March on Washington in 1963. He said, when I was the Rabbi of
the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime,
I learned many things. The most important thing
that I learned in my life under tragic circumstances is
that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most
disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic
problem is silence. A great people which had
created a great civilization had become a nation
of silent onlookers. They remained silent
in the face of hatred. They remained silent in
the face of brutality. They remained silent in
the face of mass murder. And I hope that in our
country, that the vast majority of the American people
will not remain silent. Will not think that
through some magic wand, you can disregard
these incredible health figures, or this
incredible unemployment, and this destruction of family. And if I could pass on one final
message to you, Mr. Speaker. Forget about your contract. Forget about the
political rhetoric, which will make you
even more successful. George Wallace did well
when he said segregation now, and segregation forever. And he kept getting larger,
and larger, and larger votes. And then shortly before
his death, he was asked– then in a wheelchair,
then in pain– said, you stood in front
of the door condemning the President of
the United States because he was enforcing a
decree of the United States Supreme Court to let
one black woman– Autherine Lucy– get
into the Alabama school. You called it tyranny that the
Supreme Court was imposing. And you pledged that you
would change conditions at the White House. And now Mr. Wallace, if you
had to do it over again, do you think you
should have done it? And his answer was no. Autherine Lucy should
have been accepted the University of Alabama. It should not have
been necessary to call out thousands of troops there,
or in Arkansas, Little Rock, or in Oxford, Mississippi. So therefore, Mr.
Speaker, I beg of you to not think about
that which will be most politically effective. Because you can
probably win that way, and leave the
country torn asunder. And what I would ask
of you is to understand that great poet, Langston
Hughes, who said, there’s a dream in the land
with its back against the wall. By muddled names and strange
sometimes the dream is called. There are those who claim
this dream for theirs alone, a sin for which we
know they must return. Unless shared in common
like sunlight and like air, the dream will die for
lack of substance anywhere. The dream knows no
frontier teeth or tongue. The dream, no class or race. The dream cannot be kept
secure in any one locked place. This dream today embattled
with its back against the wall. To save the dream for one,
it must be saved for all. [APPLAUSE] LAWRENCE: Thank you,
Judge Higginbotham Jr. I appreciate you
sharing your wisdom, and I admire your courage for
sharing your clear vision. Thank you. I’d like to take this
time to make the following announcements. Immediately following this
program in the Kresge Lobby, there will be a reception
for Judge Higginbotham Jr. And of course, all
are invited to attend. Other Dr. Martin
Luther King activities include a free
jazz concert, which will be here on
Saturday at 8:00 PM, given by [INAUDIBLE] and
Associates It is at 8:00 PM, it’s free, and it’s open to
all the members of the MIT community and the
surrounding area. Also, professor Melvin King
and a community Fellows program will be sponsoring a youth
program throughout the weekend. To close our program,
Ms. Marion Rosenblum will give the benediction. ROSENBLUM: We have
gathered together today to invoke the spirit
of Martin Luther King Jr. As we say in
Hebrew, [HEBREW],, may his memory be an everlasting
blessing in our lives now, and forever. At this moment, we
appeal to the Holy One of Being with our heartfelt
prayers that God may guide us in our strivings to fashion all
God’s children with minds that seek truth and
justice, with hearts that yearn for love and beauty,
with voices and bodies that promote equality and acceptance. May we display charity
and understanding to our fellow
human beings, whose beliefs and forms of expression
may be different than ours. Widen the expanses
of our hearts, that we may come to realize
the same joy envisioned by King David in the
Bible when he said– and I read first in Hebrew– [SPEAKING HEBREW] Behold how good and how pleasant
it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in peace. [APPLAUSE]

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