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President's Podcast: MLK Legacy

Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.


In Episode 17, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith talked with SUU Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Schvalla Rivera about Dr. Martin Luther King. The three celebrate his legacy and the important work he did and that continues to be done in his name.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Rivera celebrates how much Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished in his short 38 years. Dr. King spoke frequently about two concepts - sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity - that are very relevant today.

“We can work with one,” said Rivera, “sincere ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know and that’s the basic meaning of ignorance, but when it comes from a place of sincerity, usually people are willing to talk and engage or at least consider something else. But conscientious stupidity means that you are making a decision to live in error or to believe untruths or misinformation, that’s very dangerous. And very fitting for our current climate."

Wyatt added that “if we look at our role in education, we shouldn’t ever feel badly when someone comes to a university sincerely ignorant. That’s our entire goal, is to educate.”

Rivera believes humanity needs more open minds and open hearts. If Dr. King were alive today, she reasons that he would handle today’s world in much the same way he did in his day.

“He would call out the behavior that is being questioned - racism, bigotry, sexism. But he would also admonish and encourage individuals who want to fight for justice to exercise love and to show patience. That doesn’t mean to be silent, that doesn’t mean to be weak. To show love in the face of hate is one of the greatest strengths that any of us can possess and demonstrate to the world.”

In today’s world, people are less gentle and more harsh in their opinions and how they express them with peers.

“What I see today so much in dialogue is that when two people are arguing about a disagreement, if one isn’t succeeding, that person frequently moves from the area of disagreement to criticizing the person,” said Wyatt. “We move from the topic to the person. ‘I can’t win on the issue, so now I’m going to start shaming you or criticizing you individually.’ You see that so much, and what I take from Dr. King’s message is, ‘That never works’.”

“To be able to sit in front of people who are calling you names or hosing you down with water hoses and to stand. To stand your ground and to reflect love, but also pride and dignity. I think those are the things that he would say. You don’t have to reflect that hate back. It’s counterproductive, it allows people to get off the message and change the conversation. When you operate in love, you operate outside of yourself. You operate for the greater good, and you stay on message.”


Listen to Episode 16 here:


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