Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Peace Breakfast

Jan. 17, 2022

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Peace Breakfast.

I’m really pleased to join you – whether in-person or virtually - in honoring and celebrating Dr. King and his legacy.

Thank you for your dedication to the important ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and the importance of addressing institutional racism wherever it exists.

Now in its 40th year, this gathering is Oregon State University’s longest-running event focused on advancing social justice and transformative change.

I thank the Office of Institutional Diversity and the MLK Planning Committee for their work on today’s event.

I also want to thank the OSU Foundation and OSU Alumni Association for sponsoring today’s activities.

I’m grateful for opportunities like these to come together as a community and recognize and amplify the important work we are doing to create equity throughout Oregon State and beyond.

Be assured that I join you in this important cause.

Everyone comes to this work in different ways. Some have lived experiences as a member of a marginalized community. Others become educated about our history and how it impacts members of our community today. Many of us have attended workshops or other trainings.

Well for many years, I’ve read the books, watched the movies, and attended the trainings, and now it’s time to continue a focus on ACTIONS that address institutional racism and all forms of discrimination.

OSU has an enduring, steady and now urgent commitment to assure that this is a university where everyone can thrive, particularly members of underrepresented communities who have not always been served well by higher education.

We will continue our important work to create a university where all students, faculty, and staff know they will have equal access to academic, professional and extracurricular opportunities to pursue their hopes and dreams for the future.

And we pursue this imperative through a broad approach in scale and scope, by taking actions across the entire Oregon State ecosystem – teaching, research and engagement – to support students and employees as they strive to reach their full potential.

For example, this fall, OSU opened the Dr. Lawrence Griggs Office of Black and Indigenous Student Success within the Educational Opportunities Program to support and advocate for students who have traditionally been denied equal access to higher education.

In the fall of 2020, we opened two new “Living-Learning Communities” on the Corvallis campus that are centered on the experiences of Indigenous people and those with Black and African American identities.

These communities offer students opportunities to explore cultural and racial identity and build community.

In 2021, OSU-Cascades opened the DEI Lab with a mission to advance social equity and inclusion in Central Oregon and beyond.

In summer 2020, following important conversations with community members calling for action to advance racial justice, OSU launched the “Moving Forward Together” initiative.

This initiative aligns with the university’s strategic plan 4.0, and diversity strategic plan, and it articulates 45 actions to support the long-term success of BIPOC students, faculty and staff.

Nearly half of those actions are completed, and all others are underway.

The OSU Foundation and Alumni Association are accelerating their work, more than doubling what they raised for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in fiscal year 2021 and increasing volunteers in identity-based OSU alumni groups by 300%.

Due in part to these actions we’ve taken, enrollment of students of color has nearly doubled from 10 years ago and now makes up more than 28% of OSU’s overall enrollment, a 5.2% increase over last year.

As the demographics of Oregon change, we will see an increasing percentage of high school graduates coming from underrepresented populations.

It is imperative that OSU provide an affordable and accessible pathway to higher education for these students.

As we look ahead, the heavy lifting needed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion throughout OSU cannot fall to a select few.

While OSU has offices, staff and leaders designated to engage in this work, that is only one part of the equation. We each must be engaged in our daily work to create the kind of fully inclusive community we hope to realize if we are going to thrive as individuals, as a community and as a university in the 21st century.

I know you’re as disappointed as me that our keynote speaker has been postponed until a month from now, but I hope you’ll join us again on February 17. LaTosha Brown is a national leader in efforts to build Black political engagement and expand voter access.

Her work underscores the importance of civic engagement to increase power in marginalized and predominantly Black communities, while linking directly to Dr. King’s efforts of the civil rights movement to increase voter access.

Today, with rollbacks of the Voting Rights Act and challenges to voter rights occurring across the country, LaTosha’s work is more important than ever.

We must maintain and grow access for all who are eligible to participate in elections.

We must maintain a representative democracy across America.

And within the Oregon State community, we must inform and encourage the vital importance of civic engagement.

My commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion work is unwavering.

I ask each of us to persist in our efforts, both personally and collectively, and in elevating those voices that have been historically marginalized and silenced.

Together, we can work to meet and eliminate all forms of oppression, advance success for all, and create an environment where everyone knows they belong.

I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you and thank you for your contributions to our collective efforts.