January 12, 2024
Dear members of the Connecticut College community,
The College will be closed on Monday in observance of the national holiday commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A personal note: As a young professor, I was chosen as teacher of the year by students. I was to give a few remarks at commencement. Unbeknownst to me, the late Coretta Scott King was the commencement speaker. If I was nervous beforehand, I could hardly breathe when I learned. Prior to the event, she was sitting alone, meditating. I gathered up some courage, walked over and asked for her permission to sit and ask a question. She smiled and said something like "of course."
I asked, "What is one thing you would want me as an educator to do to honor your husband and you?" Her warm smile invited me to listen carefully. She quietly turned to me and said: Continue to teach young people and make sure they are in class. I said thank you and that I would do my best. Years later, as president of a university and after Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday, I couldn't forget my promise. While I did honor the holiday, I also sponsored seminars and teach-ins and asked students to honor the Kings, a couple who held education as one of their highest values. Be with me on campus thinking about what it means to seek justice and peace.
Some complained, but they didn't have to attend. I wanted them to choose to attend. And many did. I kept my promise and now it has become a meditative day for me to think of the effort still needed.
Please enjoy the day, give it some thought and think about the purpose of our profession and our commitment to our students. This is my way of paying it forward.
Les Wong, Ph.D.