January 21, 2013
President Tony Frank

On behalf of the entire Colorado State University community, I’m honored to welcome you as we celebrate the memory and legacy of a great American leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning, the President of the United States took his oath of office on two Bibles — one that belonged to Abraham Lincoln and one that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King. Two Americans — of different times and histories — but joined by their belief in the dignity and worth of all people — and by their tireless efforts and enormous sacrifices in the name of freedom.

All three of these men also shared a sense that the 1st document of our nation — the Declaration of Independence — did not fulfill its role on July 4, 1776 — but that it would continue to be a north star in our efforts to chart a course as better human beings.

On June 27, 1857, Lincoln gave a speech at Springfield, Illinois, in the wake of the Dred Scott decision, in which he said, “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain, and it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use.”

And it, indeed, had future use on August 28, 1963, at the mall in Washington D.C., when the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words: “Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

And it had use again today — January 21, 2013, when President Barak Obama said, “We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.'”

The theme of our march this year is “Faces of Freedom,” and there’s a lot of meaning in that phrase. The fight for civil rights and a peaceful world &mdash the fight against racism and oppression and violence — can take its toll. It can seem, perhaps, like a ‘never ending journey.’ The faces of freedom’s champions are lined with struggle and heartbreak; they carry battle scars; their eyes have seen disappointment and disillusion; they’ve confronted great loss and sometimes unimaginable obstacles.

But these faces also shine with something far greater and more powerful — hope, and faith in our ability to dream together and to build a better world.

This afternoon, we gather in memory of a great leader. But we also gather as a thousand faces of all ages and colors and experiences — as a community of people united by our belief in that undying dream.

Freedom is ours to keep or to lose. It’s been won for all of us through the sacrifice of others, but today, we all must be its champions. And it’s in that spirit that we march this afternoon, just as it was in that spirit that President Lincoln wrote to Mr. Swett of Springfield, Illinois, on the 30th day of May, 1860, committing to paper words that still should stir our souls (and I’ll paraphrase slightly): “All people ask for just the same thing — fairness and fairness only. This — so far as in our power, they and all others shall have.”

  • That is why we march.
  • That is why we remember.
  • That is why we will never tire from a ‘never ending journey.’
  • Because this is in our power.