The University kicked off its week-long celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with its annual Day of Service on Monday, featuring acting university president Mark Wrighton and DC Attorney General, Karl Root.
Speakers at the event spoke about King’s political and social legacy in the District, the state of civil rights in the United States, and GW’s role in the pursuit of racial equality. About 250 students participated in the Day of Service event, which included online service events with the Smithsonian Transcription Center, the National Archives’ Citizen Archivist program, and the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop – a nonprofit organization seeking to educate young people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.
Students wrote transcriptions and descriptions of different historical documents and artifacts through the Smithsonian and National Archives, and they provided feedback to the Free Minds Book Club and Writers’ Workshop on creative works and lessons for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.
Wrighton said the United States did not provide the full level of equality and opportunity that King envisioned during the civil rights movement. He said the Black Lives Matter movement, which sparked nationwide protests against systematic racism and police brutality in 2020, underscored many widespread issues of racial inequality.
“We are over 50 years from the death of Dr King, but his messages and the civil rights movement more broadly remain as important as ever, particularly in the wake of major movements such as Black Lives Matter,” he said. he stated at the event. “Over the past decades we have seen progress in this country, progress in acceptance and equity, but we have yet to achieve the truly inclusive community that Dr. King aspired to see.”
The Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service hosted the event, which was moderated by Amy Cohen, Executive Director of the Nashman Center. Nashman Center volunteers also lined up in Kogan Plaza and the Mount Vernon campus quad to hand out free T-shirts and packed lunches to students throughout the day of service.
Wrighton said he will be committed to expanding need-based scholarships at GW, working with outside organizations to overcome health care disparities, and promoting equity and inclusion policies during his tenure. presidency to reduce the impact of racial inequality at GW and elsewhere. In October 2021, officials launched a new âtargeted initiativeâ to make GW more affordable for Pell-eligible students through additional grants and bursaries over the next few years.
“Today and every day, we must work together to dismantle systemic racism while growing and deepening a community committed to the values ââof racial equity, democracy and concern for others that was exemplified by Dr. King” , did he declare.
Wrighton said GW will “not be content with its accomplishments” in the fight against inequality and racism, and that the community will continue to research and work to find solutions to current social issues.
“I look forward to working with everyone in this community to strengthen GW’s relationship with the District of Columbia, and I believe we can continue to move forward in the era ahead,” he said.
Racine, DC’s attorney general, said GW was one of the best schools in the United States to learn about civil rights and economic disparities because of the students’ presence in the district and the involvement professors in politics and public policy.
âYou are at an amazing university with Washington, DC as your campus,â he said. “There’s nothing GW teachers can’t access, and there’s nothing you can’t access to get the best education the world has to offer.”
Racine said the DC Attorney General’s Office will continue to advocate for equal opportunity and civil rights in the district. He said the voting restrictions that state legislatures have passed since the 2020 presidential election, some of which were challenged by Racine in federal court, are racially discriminatory and infringe on the right to vote.
“That’s why my office, along with other states that are prepared to fight for voting rights and fairness, have led successful coalitions to oppose discriminatory election laws in Florida, Carolina, North, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina,” he said. noted.
Racine said officials like state attorneys general can uphold civil rights and expand economic opportunity. He said lawsuits against groups such as sleepy landlords, landlords who do not regularly maintain their properties and discriminatory employers help increase opportunities for disenfranchised residents.
âAs Dr. King said, ‘Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees cannot change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless,â he said. “What we seek to do at the Attorney General’s Office is to use the law to help people who cannot help themselves.”
Acting Provost Chrisopher Bracey, who introduced Wrighton at the event, said students should perform community service in their local communities to learn about their neighborhoods and the issues residents of the district face. He said community engagement and learning about social issues are key to academic success.
âWe support student and faculty efforts to learn from and with our DC neighbors as a way to revitalize our communities and improve our scholarship,â he said. âDeveloping these relationships helps us improve our ability to be good neighbours. I hope you will continue to look beyond your service today and consider how your academic accomplishments can help improve the world and improve our democracy.