Honoring Dr. King Through Service

Dear Tulane Community:


It is fitting that our students, who have helped make Tulane one of the top universities in the country for public service, begin each fall and spring semester with a day of community outreach. Every September, nearly 1,000 Tulane students organize and take part in Outreach Tulane, volunteering with nonprofits throughout New Orleans.


In January, as they have since 1987 – the year after Dr. King’s birthday was designated as a national observance – Tulane, Dillard, Loyola and UNO students take part in the annual National Day of Service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King.


At this year’s Day of Service, hundreds of students will help clean streets, plant trees, process donations to community organizations, canvass neighborhoods to encourage voter registration, distribute information on lead and other environmental dangers and engage in numerous other service projects throughout our city. Through their efforts, these students will answer one of the most urgent questions Dr. King posed during his lifetime and which has resonated throughout the succeeding generations: “What are you doing for others?”


Each year as the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day arrives, I recall my mentor, federal judge and civil rights legend Leon Higginbotham Jr. Judge Higginbotham, for whom I served as a clerk and as a researcher for his book In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, had a profound influence on my life. Among his many contributions to our nation, he was one of the leaders President Lyndon Johnson summoned to the White House as he sought a path toward national reconciliation following Dr. King's assassination.


I hope that my old mentor would be pleased by the efforts we are undertaking to make Tulane a more diverse, inclusive and supportive community.  We have made progress as a university and a society, and yet we still have a long way to go until Dr. King’s dream is a reality. Our young people are vital to this effort. In a world filled with discord and division, it is inspiring to see so many students of different races, backgrounds and beliefs join together in service and celebration of a man whose life was dedicated to equality, justice and peace.