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Martin Luther King III keynotes at Dartmouth Social Justice Awards

Martin Luther King III delivered the keynote address at Dartmouth College’s annual Social Justice Awards in the Hopkins Center.

The Social Justice Awards were established in 2002 by the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, which has a diverse membership from a variety of departments at Dartmouth College.

The awards were established to recognize individual alumni, faculty, staff, and student groups for their commitment to causes of social justice, civil rights, peace, education, public health or environmental justice.

King’s speech — titled “Toward Social Justice” — commemorated the 60th anniversary of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., visiting Dartmouth in 1962 and delivering a speech at Dartmouth Hall.

Senior Vice President Shontay Delalue and College President Phil Hanlon both gave opening remarks discussing King Jr.’s 1962 speech at Dartmouth, titled “Towards Freedom.”

After the introduction, King began his keynote address, in which he discussed the current state of freedom in the United States. He stressed the importance of young people voting, adding that he believes young voters will be crucial in promoting voting rights in the fall midterm elections.

“We have to stay on our elected officials and let them know we expect them to protect democracy and freedom. We’re going to hold them accountable,” King said. “So please don’t let it be said that the students of Dartmouth College shirked their citizenship responsibilities in 2022. Don’t let it be said that you didn’t have your say at the ballot box.”

King also discussed the need for stricter regulations on assault rifles, highlighting the recent shooting in Buffalo, New York.

He also mentioned his pride in the nonviolent action from the Black Lives Matter movement — adding that 89% of protests have been peaceful — and the importance of college students’ participation in the Civil Rights Movement. 

In addition, King said he lamented the low number of women in elected positions in the U.S.government, and he discussed the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade — although he is a Christian, King said he supports the right to choose.

King also shared anecdotes and quotes from his father throughout the speech.  

“All of us should be concerned about what’s going on at the Supreme Court,” King said. “So, you know, I’m a Christian. But I’m not a Christian who believes that men should determine what happens to women.”

Dartmouth Center for Social Impact director Tracy Dustin-Eichler ’79a said she hopes that King’s discussion of the importance of voting resonated with the audience.

“Young people voted at a higher rate in 2016 than they did in 2020,” she said. “I hope that that message of voting for the centrality of voting for human rights and the centrality of voting the success of our democracy and the necessity to protect voter rights in the United States was heard loud and clear.”

After his speech, King answered questions from director of the John Sloan Dickey Center Victoria Holt. 

Dartmouth Black Student Athlete Association co-president Anyoko Sewavi ’23 said that she appreciated that King centered students in his speech, such as when he praised students for participating in Black Lives Matter protests.

“It was great to see so many students in the leadership of the protests against the killing of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, to name a few,” King said. 

“It was nice hearing him acknowledge the work that students all over the country have been doing in the fight for social justice,” Sewavi said. “In all aspects, whether it’s environmental, social, [or] professional.”

Elaine Sarazen ’25 said that King’s “call to action” to ordinary individuals resonated with her.

“His whole point that I appreciated is that everybody should be doing something to make the world a better place,” she said. 

Nancy Vogele ’85, College chaplain and director of the William Jewett Tucker Center, wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth that King “was the perfect person to come speak.” 

“It was important that we commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s visit 60 years ago,” she wrote. “His son, Martin Luther King III, has also dedicated his life to civil rights and justice. He bridges and builds on the work his father did.”

After King’s speech, Chloe Poston, the associate vice president for strategic initiatives and director of the Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, presented this year’s annual Social Justice Awards.

According to Dustin-Eichler, the Social Justice awards are typically held during the winter, but they were moved to May this year in order to coincide with the anniversary of King Jr.’s visit. The awards were established in 2002 to recognize members of the Dartmouth community for their commitment to causes of social justice and civil rights.

“These yearly awards highlight for all of us the amazing work that members of the Dartmouth community do to better our world,” Vogele wrote. “The awards remind us that there are amazing people in this world and learning about them and their work encourages the rest of us to think about and do what we can to make this world a better, more just and equitable place to all.” 

Anais Ovalle, who is pursuing a master’s in public health at The Dartmouth Institute and leads the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Leadership Program in the department of medicine, won the Emerging Leadership Award, which “honors an individual who has served less than 10 years in their chosen field of work or is a recent graduate,” according to the awards webpage.  

Ruth Morgan ’96 — who works as a doctor in underserved communities in San Antonio — and associate professor of mathematics Craig Sutton were recipients of the Ongoing Commitment Award.

Spanish and Portuguese administrative associate and lecturer Maria Clara de Greiff, who co-founded the Fuerza-Farmworkers-Fund won the Holly Fell Sateia Award, which “recognizes a faculty or staff member at Dartmouth who is an enthusiastic and effective leader in advancing diversity and community,” according to awards webpage.

The Dartmouth Black Student-Athlete Alliance won the Student Group Award.

Sewavi said she believes the award will raise the DBSAA’s profile on campus.

“[The award] will propel us into being one of those organizations that people do take seriously,” she said. “We are not just athletes running around, we know what we want, we know that we can achieve what we want to achieve.”

Dustin-Eichler added that she believes that the Social Justice Awards encourage others to pursue social change.

“Hearing the stories of the awardees and seeing the impact of their actions is an inspiration for the entire Dartmouth community to find their own way to make an impact,” she said.

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