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Old Dominion University President Roseann Runte delivered the following remarks during the Urban League of Hampton Roads' annual Community Leaders Breakfast Monday, an observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday:

"It is fitting that we join together to recognize Martin Luther King Jr., winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the finest orators in the 20th century, a brave and principled man, a great American who dedicated his life to racial justice and world peace through nonviolent persuasion.

"It is appropriate that we celebrate the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was born because with his life came dreams which we still share today, dreams of equality and justice, dreams which are very much alive, but still dreams and not realizations. While we have made 'strides toward freedom,' to quote the title of one of his books, I note that in the 2001 Report on the State of Black America, 27% of African Americans felt that racism still penetrates their daily activities, 70% felt there was racial bias in the workplace. Today, we must do more than keep a dream alive, we must invest our energies in the future, in the generation of young people who are now attending school and who might someday attend university, who might someday have the capacity to change their lives and our society.

"In 'Destination: The American Dream,' High Price wrote that 'the search for social cohesion will be an exercise in futility so long as millions of alienated urban blacks and other minorities remain far outside the American mainstream, gazing longingly in, yet reminded daily by shopping channels of just how irrelevant they are economically.' He goes on to note that 'low income and rural children are caught in an unconscionable trap between lofty standards and [poor quality] schools.'

"Martin Luther King Jr. said that 'The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.' He recounted in one speech how he was driving at night with his brother who was upset by drivers coming from the opposite direction who did not dim their lights. His brother said that the next time that happened, he would put on his high beams. Martin Luther King Jr. said no. Someone has to have sense.

"Today, we are at a crossroads in Virginia. Our underfunded system of education cannot serve our children adequately. In order to fund our schools and universities properly, we will have to make some small sacrifices, contributing to the common good. Martin Luther King Jr. supported education as a means to equality, as a means to end poverty. He probably would have advised us that A someone has to have sense.

"It is most appropriate indeed, that we honor today this hero, this leader. It is indeed appropriate that we remember the values for which he stood and the means he recommended to achieve them. It is certainly appropriate that today we all stand inspired by greatness, that we may all dream, act and have sense together as one community, as one people."

-Roseann Runte

This article was posted on: January 20, 2004

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