Martin Luther King Day, Decision Time and a New Era Begins

Martin Luther King remembered

The juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration of Barack Obama as President is striking. I am old enough to remember King’s speeches as a charismatic minister who exhorted the country to dream of a better time, old enough to remember the horror I and the people around me felt when he was killed, living close enough to downtown Detroit that summer to see the flames as buildings burned in anger and fear after his murder, and young enough once to have struck against my University, with hundreds of other students and faculty and hundreds more workers from the University of Michigan, seeking to increase the proportion of Black students on campus. Although we won that battle, we also learned that changing the complexion of the student body would take far more than goals alone. Martin Luther King did not die in vain. We’re still working to increase the diversity of our University and this School and to end health disparities. Toward that end, check out the agenda for the upcoming Minority Student Caucus‘s next conference, titled “Our World, Our Community: Building Bridges for Health Equality.”

A new era begins

Tuesday, in the same orderly way Presidential transitions occur, President Bush left office, and President Obama will begin a new day in American history. While I respect the people who might wish John McCain were being administered the oath Tuesday, I look forward to Tuesday with real hope and optimism for the future. And I am so grateful that in my lifetime, we have come to this point that irrespective of race, Americans voted for the person they thought could best lead them into the future, our future.

Reading now

I am in the middle of Daschle’s book Critical about challenges in health care and the necessary elements of an effective health care system. It’s a very thoughtful, well-researched book. One of our alumni, Jeanne Lambrew, PhD, MSPH, who is leading the White House organization for Tom Daschle, is a co-author.

A real privilege!

Friday night, I was coming back to the School as one of our faculty members, Anita Farel, DrPH, MSW, was leaving. We talked a little about our respective activities and about the challenges of decision season, when students are sent letters informing them about the results of their applications, and they and their advocates sometimes call to talk about the outcomes. Some of the saddest calls I have are with applicants who really wanted to be accepted or with someone who really wanted an applicant to be admitted, but their efforts were unsuccessful. I thanked Anita for her efforts in so many domains, including talking with applicants. Her answer was so wonderful that I wanted to share it. (Anita, usually I ask permission first, but in this case, I hope you are fine with my sharing.) She said, “It’s a privilege.” I thought that summed up so well what it is that makes Anita and so many of our faculty and staff so fabulous. They see what they do as a privilege, and that recognition shapes their behavior. We are privileged to work at the School, for this fine University, with our fabulous students, in this great state. In the day to day business of life, it’s easy to forget, and I am so grateful to people like Anita who remind me, “It’s a privilege.”

Happy Monday!

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