Statement on the Observance of the 23rd Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dear University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias community members,

Tomorrow across the United States, we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is the 23rd year that all states have observed this national holiday. I offer that we consider what it means to “observe” the holiday, which for many is a day off. At the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias, we observe this important holiday as we wait to begin our spring semester.

We can observe by reflecting on the wisdom, prescience, passion and activism of Dr. King. We can observe by examining the part that we can play, as individuals and as a university community, to strive for equity. We can observe by looking at Dr. King’s speeches and writings, so rich with timeless understanding and challenges. We can observe by visiting the UMaine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza, or by learning more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in our nation’s capital. And we can observe by hearing a discussion of leaders in Maine about the state of civil rights in Maine, sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association, or by engaging in the humble service Chancellor Malloy spoke of in his message last week.

In a sermon delivered in 1959 titled “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart,” Dr. King offered these words: “The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment. Who doubts that this toughness is one of man’s greatest needs?”

What a fitting message for us, in a university, as we continue together with another renewed beginning on Tuesday, to live and learn together, and develop “tough minds” prepared to solve our world’s most complex problems, including bringing an end to injustice.

And through his words in a 1965 commencement address at Oberlin College, Dr. King implores us, with relevance nearly 60 years later: “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Take some time tomorrow to honor Dr. King by observing the holiday in his name, and to reflect on how we can do more to do right.


Joan Ferrini-Mundy