Unity In Action

by | Jan 19, 2019

As we head into the long weekend commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I reflect on that iconic picture of Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial looking out toward the Washington Monument, over masses of people gathered to hear his address.  From deep in his breast arose the words we know so well, “I have a dream…”

In that moment, Dr. King shared his dream and simultaneously called upon each of us, from every walk of life – those there in the moment and generations yet to come – to share his vision, to take hold of his aspirations and dream with him.  So that if any one of us is lost in the midst of the quest, there are many others to help carry the dream forward, to feed it, to nurture it, to allow it to grow – and realize its promise. 

In that same speech, Dr. King, evoked “the fierce urgency of Now” and cautioned us against, “engaging in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

That evocation is the heart and soul of education.  

Just a year after Dr. King’s, 1963 speech, Kentucky’s own Governor “Ned” Breathitt addressed a crowd with words written by the Prichard Committee’s founding father, Ed Prichard:

“…Ours is the vision and ours the growing reality of a great society in which the accidents of race and color, parentage and poverty, location and geography, will not be allowed to dim the light of human hope and to cripple the possibilities of human growth…”

It would be 20 years later that we would fully recognize the failings of our state in education, leaving our citizens woefully lacking on a path to a larger life, and commit to doing something about it. 

And, while we’ve made significant progress for all students across Kentucky, progress of which to be very proud, it’s not enough. Thirty-three years later, we must renew the call to “not submit to gradualism” – but, to continue, with urgency and a quickened pace, to further increase achievement for all students and close achievement gaps for each student, traditionally underserved.

Dr. King said, “Education must enable [one] to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his [or her] life.”

And, yet, we are still leaving too many students behind, not fully prepared with the knowledge and skills necessary for success. These young people are disproportionally from low-income families, many are English language learners, they have learning differences, or they are children of color.  They are left disempowered and immobilized, with hopes for brighter futures – fleeting.

We must not allow this inequity to persist.  We must hold fast to the dream of ensuring educational excellence for each student – and it is not just the business of our school system, it’s Everybody’s Business. 

And, so, in our communities and our homes, we must hold ourselves accountable to continue our learning and to have high expectations for the education of “our children” – Kentucky’s children.  Expectations for an education that: provides foundational knowledge necessary for a bright future, recognizes each learner’s gifts and talents, helping them to realize their unique potential, and spurs them to lift others as they climb.

We must work together, modeling unity in action that dismantles the barriers of poverty, prejudice, and violence.  

Each of us must find our place in Dr. King’s prescription and do our part – however big or small – to courageously build bridges to a beloved community where we see each other, and our young people, as God sees us – wonderful creatures, flawed – yes, but full of promise.


Since 1983, the Prichard Committee has worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education.

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