Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

By Punahou President Mike Latham ’86

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are reminded of the life and legacy of a great leader who challenged this nation to “live out the true meaning of its creed … that all men are created equal.”

King understood that goal could only be realized through education, and he called upon America’s youth to help transform the nation. In April, 1959, five years after the Supreme Court declared segregation in schools unconstitutional, King led a march in Washington, D.C. to shine a light on the fact that many schools across the country still refused to open their doors to children of all races and backgrounds. At the march, King was accompanied by luminaries like Harry Belafonte and Jackie Robinson, but it was to the crowd of 26,000, many of whom were young adults, that he directed his most impassioned plea. “Make a career of humanity,” he implored. “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

At Punahou, we aim to instill in our students the essential capacities for empathy and moral action. Through our Chapel services, our curriculum, the arts, athletics, global education, Hawaiian studies, public service and a host of other experiences, our students come to understand their common humanity and the need to respect and affirm the worth and dignity of each individual.

The Civil Rights Movement ultimately paved the way for sweeping social and political reforms, but King’s dream of a more just, equal and inclusive America remains unfinished. It will be up to us, our children, and the generations that follow to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony.” May all of us be worthy of that noble work.

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