28th Annual Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Martin Luther
"From Dreams to Reality: The Illusion of Full Inclusion"
Faculty, Guests, students, Administrators, and our gracious hosts,
President and Mrs. Vest,
So that is what I will do.
To tell you where I am coming from, I will start by saying I am an undergraduate here at MIT, a junior majoring in Biology, and minoring in Environmental Health and Toxicology. Additionally, I am the current Vice-Chairperson of the MIT Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. But today, I stand before you as a representative of neither standing. They are mere undercurrents of who I am and who I consider myself to be. Today before you, I represent a leader. And no one has to verify that fact. I know that I am a leader because I know when to start my day and when to end it. I dont think that I can compare myself to Dr. King, but I will remark, that he is a leader also, not was but is.
In the words of Coretta Scott King, he remains a shining example of a "discerning leader," one that shows good judgment and insight.
There are many leaders around me, but how many are as astute as Dr. King? Some can gather some followers, but how tactful are the causes for which they lead. And what cause should they be leading?
The question that I pose before you today is:
To what, or for what, should we be lead?
To answer this question: I started digging back, back to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King for these answers. I am not quite sure if he gave me a clear-cut solution, but he started opening up my mind to some possible ones. Allow me to explain.
Let me talk about purpose and cause. Many leaders are born with the rightful talent to lead. They may have great oratorical skills; a beautiful loud voice; and persuasive in speech. But does that make them a good leader. NO!! What makes them a good leader is whether or not they chose a valid and purposeful path for those that follow them; if they choose not to lead them astray. The first quality of a good leader is one who will never take his eyes off the prize; to make life better for others. The second important quality that I will mention is to be an exceptional learner; to open one's eyes and heart to the truth.
Do not be blinded by what is easy and fruitless. But beyond being an exceptional learner and leader, Dr. King was a teacher; he made leaders. He took his God-given talent, and stood at the pulpit and said "people are you tired of bus segregation? will you walk?" Well I guess they were so tired of that bus that all of the black people of Montgomery Alabama, and some white people too, walked everyday for more than 6 months. But the truth remains that they became leaders when they followed Dr. King. They took their energy and their strength and got up and started walking with their two feet and said "we wont sit on the back of the bus anymore." If I were to tell you to remember anything today, I would say, "dont be that leader that lets people sit on the back of the bus, rather teach those around you to rise and acknowledge they are better than the back of the bus, they deserve the front, back, left side, right, whatever they desire."
This is the problem I see that we need to resolve, it is the problem with leadership that does not have the motivation to build more leaders, to build and sustain inclusion.
What do I mean by inclusion?
It is allowing equal opportunity for everyone to achieve success. Many view the illusion of full inclusion as that glass ceiling that no one can seem to break. Well I apologize, because upon reflection of Dr. Kings life, I think it is quite naive to think that one can break the glass ceiling by his/herself. Dont try to climb to the top alone. If you do, you are gonna bump your head and fall right back down! We, and I mean we, need to work first at teaching and learning. That way when we are psychologically prepared to break that ceiling, together, we will crack it, wide open. I say, remember, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught that inequality cannot be taken over by force alone, we must teach the notion of equality first; then and only then, can we begin to talk about injustices and inequalities; then and only then, will the illusion of total inclusion be transformed into a clear and tangible objective.
Good morning. My name is Russell Erich Caulfield and I am a graduate student in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a proud graduate of Morehouse College, of which Dr. King was an alumnus.
When I first received the email saying that I would get to speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, I was thrilled, delighted, excited, elated, amused, ecstatic, overjoyed, and completely enthused at the opportunity to stand in front of such an awesome and diversely beautiful gathering of human beings. And now, as I stand here, it does my heart good to gaze out upon such a celestial cornucopia of colors, a sublime symphony of hues, a magnificently marvelous mosaic of men and women of different backgrounds, races and religions. For, in looking at this group, one could be lead to think that the quest of the man whom we commemorate this morning has been completed.
However, if one were to ponder the preponderance of perplexing peculiarities persistently plaguing people of color and women and gays and people who "look" like they might be Muslims, then one realizes very quickly that what we are seeing is in fact an illusion, more specifically the illusion of full inclusion.
If visitors from another world were to drop by and peek in on this breakfast, they might be inclined to think that here at MIT we are indeed the fulfillment of the dream. But, were they to visit the lecture halls and office buildings on a normal Friday morning, they would find that there are less than 150 African Americans in a graduate school of nearly 6,000 students and that there are fewer than 130 Hispanics in that same graduate school, and, more shocking, of the 486 tenured full professors here at MIT only 7 of them are African American, and of the 486 tenured full professors here at MIT only 6 of them are Hispanic. Granted, great strides have been made in gender inclusion in the undergraduate population, though women make up less than 30 percent of the graduate school and less than 20 percent of the faculty, what we must recognize is that issues of gender and racial inclusion are not mutually exclusive, not one or the other, but instead are complementary.
For only when we have men and women of different backgrounds working together, can we hope to get a full range of new, insightful and innovative perspectives. But, unfortunately, many of us who grew up in a microwave-tv dinner-give-it-to-me-now-I-want-it yesterday type of society expect that meaningful change will eventually come about without us having to do anything, like it will ride in like a handsome knight on a horse, and we sit back saying, "inclusion, inclusion wherefore are thou, inclusion.
But, we have to remember that we are struggling against the momentum of history, constantly spiraling downward, plowing a path where, if unchecked, the greedy, ruthless, shortsighted tyrants of the world might actually have their way.
Ultimately, what we must see is that the B-boy from Brooklyn, the chemist from Cambodia, the double E from Indonesia, the MD from Mexico, the botanist from Botswana, the Mathematician from Morocco, the ecologist from England, the geologist from Germany, the poly sci from Poland, the psychiatrist from Sri Lanka, and the architect from Argentina all bring to the table something different, and yet the same, competence and diversity. They say that great minds think alike.
But, I submit that truly exceptional minds think differently. For it is our charge as sojourners in this magnificent academic mega Mecca to think differently, and grapple earnestly with full inclusion. Chasing truth never has been and never will be an easy task, but we can keep in mind the words of Arthur William Edgar OShaughnessy who wrote, "We are the music makers,/ And we are the dreamers of dreams,/ Wandering by the lone sea-breakers,/ And sitting by desolate streams,/ World-losers and world-forsakers,/ On whom the pale moon gleams,/ Yet we are the movers and shakers,/ Of the world for ever, it seems."
In remembering Dr. King we should remember his work. We must embrace difference, press for equality and break the rose-colored glasses of sameness, that keep us from seeing through the illusion of full inclusion. On this day of remembrance, let us not only commemorate the man, but, also remember the mission.