We live in weary and cynical times. But inspiration is everywhere and the powerful force that meets good with good is ever present. The trick is to decide to look for it.
I begin each semester with the message to my students that words matter and that actions matter, and that (to paraphrase playwright Tom Stoppard) if we can get the right ones in the right order “we can nudge the world a little.”
Today I shared this message with my classes:
This week, spend a few moments thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and legacy, and their continued resonance today. Perhaps watch with your loved ones and children this short video about his game-changing speech on the Washington Mall. It is of particular note that Dr. King’s prepared remarks did not include his iconic “I Have a Dream” sermon, a sermon that he had previously delivered at other venues. It was only when his prepared remarks had just about ended that his beloved friend and colleague Mahalia Jackson, standing within earshot of Dr. King, began exhorting him: ”Martin, tell them about the dream. Tell them about the dream.” It was the power of friendship and faith that inspired Dr. King to go off script and speak the words that would change the arc of the civil rights movement.
We need each other. And sometimes (maybe all the time) we need to surrender some of our tendencies to want to control everything to leave some room for the benevolent forces of good to take the stage.
Thank you, Dr. King. In his honor, and to more fully realize his beautiful dream, let’s do better and be better.
Paula A. Franzese is Peter W. Rodino Professor of Law at Seton Hall Law School in Newark.