Chancellor King Statement on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 16, 2023

"This August will mark 60 years since a young reverend from Atlanta, Georgia walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to proclaim to the world his dream for the nation. That dream challenged the country to fulfill a promise written by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence – a promise that must be kept to ensure this country's success. That dream was grounded in the principle that every American must have access to the same basic, fundamental rights as their neighbor.

"One of those rights was equality in education, which Dr. King understood would provide students with an opportunity for social mobility; an opportunity to change their lives and maybe the lives of others. This resonates deeply with me, as public education changed my life and has defined my career. There is a straight line between the work done by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the thousands both before and after him, and the incredible opportunities I have been blessed to have.

"In 1948 at Morehouse College Dr. King wrote, ‘it seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility, and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.'

"Too many have legitimate goals, but lack the necessary access to accomplish them. We can continue to honor Dr. King's legacy by tearing down racial and socioeconomic barriers so everyone can have a chance at the American dream.

"In the spring of 1948, around the same time Dr. King was finishing his studies at Morehouse, SUNY was created to put a high-quality education within reach for thousands of students. Nearly 75 years later, there is still work to be done to ensure that the vision of inclusivity central to SUNY's founding comes to fruition.

"New York is one of the most diverse states in the union, but our faculty and student body do not yet reflect fully that diversity. We must recruit a more diverse faculty and engage more students from historically underserved communities. All students need to see themselves represented in their instructors and on a grander scale, their local, state, and federal leaders. To that end, we must also guarantee student completion. Getting in the door is not enough. SUNY must invest in evidence-based student support programs and address equity gaps.

"By following the path Dr. King set forth, SUNY can and will be a leader at building diverse learning communities that demonstrate equity and excellence go hand in hand. At SUNY, it is our mission to create an environment where all feel equal. Where all feel welcome. Where all feel seen and valued. Where all feel they have the tools at their disposal to create a better future for themselves and their families. That is our commitment to our students, our faculty, our staff, and to the legacy of Dr. King."

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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Holly Liapis
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