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Page last updated on January 31, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Thank you Provost Robel. It is a privilege to be here with you, Vice President Wimbush, and the rest of the university community, along with our special guests, Tamika Catchings, and Janai Nelson, whom I will have the honor of introducing to you very soon.  

On behalf of our wonderful City of Bloomington -- all 85,000 of us who live and work both inside and outside the limestone walls of campus -- I bring greetings and a warm welcome. I’m honored, humbled, and energized to be together with the hard-working, deeply caring people in this room who are working to realize to Dr. King’s dream every day.

As we know, we celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday as A Day On, Not a Day Off. Other holidays we mark by sharing a meal with family, giving gifts, parading, singing, reminiscing...but there is something about Dr. King’s legacy that makes this holiday different -- unique.  How does one preserve the legacy of a man who once stated that “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” Dr. King’s remarks inspire and inform the many acts of service and community-building that will be performed today, and every day across Bloomington.  Those hours spent in training to assist survivors of domestic violence, reading to children, collecting books for those incarcerated, serving meals and washing dishes at a shelter...

These acts of service that we perform together -- town and gown -- embody our celebration of Dr. King.   And the alliances we forge or renew on this day knit together the fabric of this community. Bringing together the university and the wider community, yes, but also those of us performing the services, and those of us receiving them.  These experiences bridge that gap, introduce us to those we might not otherwise meet, rekindling human dignity, and reminding us how arbitrary the boundaries are between us. As Dr. King said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Among the many things the current partial government shutdown is illustrating are our interconnectedness, and the tenuousness of our security.  Far too many of us, including many federal workers, are just a paycheck or a government action away from food insecurity or homelessness. The bridges we build within our community on this day, and throughout the year, strengthen our safety net yes, but also build the empathy and respect among us all that are so vital to our peace and our prosperity and our justice.

I am fortunate and grateful to be mayor of a city that is home to a university that recognizes those ties that bind us all together, and proceeds accordingly.  As thoroughly as IU is lauded for its global ties--to research institutions, students, and scholars around the world--it is also deeply invested in this community and this region.  Whether through the Center for Rural Engagement, or the Grand Challenges initiative, or myriad other efforts, this university is making serious efforts to tackle food insecurity, the opioid crisis, and job growth. IU also plays an invaluable role in stewarding the ethical climate of our community, and our state.  On this 33rd observance of Dr. King’s birthday, we commend IU and President McRobbie for the endorsement of the Governor’s proposal to pass hate crime legislation in Indiana. [pause for applause] As one of only five states in the nation without such an ordinance, it is time, it is past time for action.

After you go about your day of action and education and connection today, I invite you to join this evening in another tradition, the City’s celebration of Dr. King’s birthday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, with a reception at 6 pm, and the program at 7 pm. Along with performances by the Fairview Elementary School Choir and the IU African American Choral Ensemble, the program will feature a keynote speech by a special guest who is with us this morning -- Janai S. Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. -- a frequently consulted expert on race, civil rights, constitutional law and election law.   

In addition to her work with the NAACP LDF – a premier civil and human rights legal organization -- Janai Nelson is one of the lead counsel in Veasey v. Abbott, a federal challenge to Texas’s voter ID law.   Previously, Nelson was Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship and Associate Director of the Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law where she was also a full professor of law.  Among her honors, Nelson has been named a Fulbright Scholar at the Legal Resources Center in Accra, Ghana, and one of Lawyers of Color’s 50 Under 50 minority professors making an impact in legal education.

It is my honor on this 33rd national observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to welcome Janai S. Nelson…