mlkAs a senior, I find it a humbling coincidence that this historic 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will occur tomorrow, on my last first day of classes. The connection between the motivation for the march and the values that craft the identity of our university, reinvigorated within us each fall semester, is deeply symbolic.

We all remember the impetus behind the march from our elementary and high school classrooms. The demonstration addressed the race discrimination laws, particularly Jim Crow, which systemically propagated black Americans as second-class citizens. This march unified the freedom fighters of our nation, finally giving them a medium through which they could present their grievances to the world. Through it, each protester, in solidarity, charged this nation’s leaders with allowing black people — and other minorities — the human rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

As sons and daughters of Georgetown, this history should resonate especially within us. We are a community based on service, reflection and social consciousness. Each student that enters through the front gates should keep a fundamental cognizance for the issues affecting humanity as well as the duty to address these issues in some capacity, large or small.

As we enter the new school year, reunite with our friends and classmates, welcome a new class to our community and brace ourselves for academic rigor, we will surely hear speeches referencing our identity as a university. We will be reminded of the Jesuit values that ethically ground our community and distinguish us from our academic peers: community in diversity, contemplatives in action and women and men for others. As we use these first autumn weeks to reflect on ourselves as individuals, our purposes and goals within the context of this university and the greater context of this world, let us not forget these three facets of our Georgetown character and draw inspiration from the historical example that those men and women provided us at the National Mall 50 years ago. Tomorrow, we will draw inspiration from their deep commitment to diversity.

March on Washington demonstrators realized the equity and intrinsic worth of every individual, regardless of race. Let us embrace these qualities of acceptance and love and use them to embrace each other as well as the communities we serve and seek to serve. Moreover, let us be inspired by the demonstrators of the March on Washington as living examples of contemplatives in action. On the Hilltop, let us formulate habits of continuous reflection upon our place and situation in our respective societies. Let us use these immense academic and human resources to seek the theories and wisdom of previous generations. Then, let us use this knowledge to begin formulating habits of action, using this wisdom to sustain and uplift all of the communities to which we belong. Finally, let us model ourselves after the spirits of these freedom fighters in our quests to become men and women for others.

We should use this anniversary to appreciate the sacrifices of these demonstrators in risking their safety to unite in this city in 1963. From their example, we can better understand commitment to social consciousness and our duty to use our gifts, talents and skills to right the injustices we encounter. Tomorrow, let’s commit to improving our world as we celebrate these forefathers who did so for us.

George Smith is a senior in the College. He is the secretary of D.C. relations for the Georgetown University Student Association and a Patrick Healy Fellow.

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