Prepared Remarks for the Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Monday, January 17, 2011
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it does not matter with me now – Because I have been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will – And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land.”
Martin Luther King spoke these words on April 3, 1968. How prophetic he was on the eve of his death. He caused us to consider several things. He told us that these would be difficult days ahead of us, days of economic hardship, days of incivility and days tragedy. Dr. Martin Luther King was aware that not all was right with the world and that it would not all be resolved in his lifetime.
Dr. King told us that he simply wanted to do God’s will. He told us that he had been allowed to look over the mountaintop. He told that he had seen the promised land. Martin Luther King told us in 1968 that he had seen what was going to be, even though he was not going to be here with us.
He saw a black governor of Virginia. He saw a black mayor and a black governor of New York. He saw what we could not see. He saw black people travel from the slave house to the White House.
My friends, Martin Luther King may not be with us today, but he left us hopeful about our future. Martin Luther King said: “In the spirit of the darkness, we must not despair, we must not become bitter – we must not lose faith.”
Dr. King told us that “Faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future.” So my friends, colleagues and students I say to you this morning, that as we remember the King legacy, we should remember a man of faith, a man who believed in the idea that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
My friends we have much work to do in this community and around the world. We must still rebuild Haiti. We must still educate the children of Brooklyn and New York City. We need a “Dream Act” to support the young people who have done no wrong.
We must still build a more valued and respected Medgar Evers College, but it can only happen if we work together to do so. With the faith of this man, Dr. King, we can move mountains. I leave you with these words of Dr. King:
“Before the ship of your life reaches its last harbor, there will be long drawn out storms, howling and jostling winds, and tempestuous seas that make the heart stand still. If you do not have a deep and patient faith in God, you will be powerless to face the delay, disappointment and vicissitudes that inevitably come.”
Dr. William Pollard is the president of Medgar Evers College (City University of New York) located in Brooklyn, New York