Each year a planning committee composed of faculty, staff, and students across campus choose a theme based on its relevance to current social justice issues and the teachings of Dr. King.

The 2018 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium theme is…The Fierce Urgency of Now

Theme Statement

Is solidarity not the goal of any nation? Is solidarity not the goal of all nations together? That we all think alike and always agree is not practical nor remotely realistic. Yet, solidarity is not blind nationalism, it is committing to work together with all for the good of all. There is no solution until we bridge the gap between our cultural differences. This happens not through the negating or minimizing of cultural differences but in accepting, embracing and celebrating these differences.

Our theme for this year’s MLK Symposium, The Fierce Urgency of Now, calls us to claim ownership of the challenges we face and not leave them for future generations to address. Amidst technological advancements and increased global connections, much work still needs to be done to heal the wounds of our past and resolve the injustices of our present. The Fierce Urgency of Now compels us not only to act but also to acknowledge that the absence of action and the continuation of silence decidedly plunge us deeper into the shadows of division. In accepting this reality, we accept the duty of acting now.

Throughout the commemorative booklet you will find artwork and dates highlighting events that together demonstrate an urgent need to act. Of course, not all of the most pressing issues could be highlighted, but the booklet focuses on some prominent issues facing our communities in the following areas:

Discrimination and bias on our campus (campus)

Flint water crisis (state)

Discourse on police violence (national)

Climate change/global warming (international/global)

We took this year’s theme from a line in Dr. King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam.” This iconic speech was delivered April 4, 1967, to clergy and laypersons concerned about the Vietnam War, at Riverside Church in New York City. King was transparent about how his conviction and connection to others compelled him to promote peace and reconciliation even when it was not popular to do so. By speaking so forthrightly, he modeled how speaking and acting can sometimes demand courage.

The quotation below is an excerpt from the speech; the entire address can be found below.

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.’

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

April 4, 1967
King delivers his first public antiwar speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” at New York’s Riverside Church

Read the full “Beyond Vietnam” speech here