Today, we pause to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fifty years later, his dream is alive. I see it every day in Leadership Alliance students who are exploring ideas through research that shapes our understanding of science, medicine, and the human condition from diverse cultural and academic perspectives. I see it in students who have progressed into competitive doctoral programs, who prior to engaging in research did not know what a PhD was. I see it in the more than 450 Leadership Alliance Doctoral Scholars, who are diversifying the workforce and serving as leaders and role models in research careers spanning academic, public, and private sectors.
Despite these successes, the struggle continues to ensure Dr. King’s dream lives on. His message of educational and economic equality remains prescient. Recently, the National Science Foundation released their annual data on doctoral degree recipients in the United States. The data reveal a persistent racial gap, with only 14% of racial and ethnic minorities earning doctoral degrees, as compared to 71% of White U.S. citizens or permanent residents. These disparities have ripple effects in our nation’s ability to compete in a global economy. These data do not discourage, instead they empower us to reinforce efforts to train, mentor, educate and inspire.
Dr. King reminds us that “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” The Leadership Alliance is committed to providing opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds as early as their first year in college and continue the mentoring throughout their entire academic and professional pathways.
In her poem, Still I Rise, Dr. Maya Angelou inspires us to rise, no matter the situation. To honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we will rise; we will keep the dream alive; we will overcome!