My Charge to the Campus Community on MLK Day


This morning, I had the honor of joining the campus community at one of our nation’s largest celebrations of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the event, we heard Amy Goodman, an award-winning journalist and host of the global radio show and podcast Democracy Now! talk about the need to give a voice to the voiceless.

We also heard from Issa Rae, who shared her journey breaking down barriers in Hollywood to become the first African-American woman to helm a show on HBO. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in HBO’s Insecure, which she created and now produces.

It was a powerful discussion about the role of activism in bringing about change and the role representation in media plays in empowering those traditionally marginalized.

You can watch a replay of the entire event on YouTube:

Following the discussion, I issued a charge to the audience. It’s a charge that I believe deeply in, and hope that you will share and embrace with me.

It’s on us, all of us, to amplify the voices that are traditionally not heard.

What does this mean?

It means taking the time to listen to others and seeking to understand perspectives different from our own, especially when those perspectives challenge our own beliefs. It means asking questions in service of learning and understanding, not just to score counter points.

And, perhaps most importantly, it means making sure that all voices, especially those often not afforded the opportunity to speak, are amplified and offered a stage of far reach.

It is our privilege and responsibility to bring people together and give voice to those often not heard. It is our privilege and responsibility to listen and seek to understand.

It is our privilege to live in a diverse world, and it is our responsibility to embrace that diversity to create a better world for all.

Our diversity is our greatest strength — whether it be in business or society at large — but only if we create an inclusive community and ensure equity for all people. As I said at today’s event, like any community or organization, we at the University of Michigan are not perfect in this regard — but we strive to be. And I believe it is this unwavering commitment that is the Michigan Difference!

And therein lies our charge. We must remain deeply committed to embracing diversity, building an inclusive community, and ensuring equity for all. Imagine the possibilities if we all share this same commitment. In education, diversity promotes learning. In business, diversity improves performance. And as a citizen of the United States of America, I am proud to be part of a country that recognizes its past, celebrates its present, and strives for a better future for all people.

That is my charge to you today. That is the Michigan Difference.

It was an honor to join Issa Rae, Amy Goodman, and several Umich students for lunch following the keynote presentations.


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