A Message on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

August 28, 2013

To the Students, Faculty and Staff of Georgetown University

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

Fifty years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, just blocks from our main campus, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered a powerful message of freedom—a vision of a better world—that rang from “every mountainside” and changed the course of history:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Today I invite you to gather for a reading of excerpts of Dr. King’s speech on the steps of Healy at 3:00 p.m. to remember that moment of promise, and that vision, as a community. Just before the reading, we will join together with churches and institutions across our nation to peal the bells of Healy.

We look forward to this opportunity to engage in thoughtful reflection on how Dr. King’s words have impacted our nation’s history, how they have shaped who we are as communities and as individuals today—and how there is still unfinished work in realizing this dream of a better world.

It is fitting that this anniversary occur on the first day of our academic year, as we introduce our newest students to our way of life here at Georgetown. Animated by our Catholic and Jesuit tradition, we seek to contribute to the betterment of our world; we are also an academic community, deeply committed to enquiry and learning. As such, it is our work to imagine anew how we can better care for one another; how we can build our societies so that they are more inclusive and more just; how together, we can better address the challenges that confront us—from hunger to pandemics to religious and ethnic strife.

It is a privilege to engage in this work with you, as members of this community. By taking on these issues together—through dialogue, scholarship and our actions—I believe we can move ever closer to Dr. King’s vision.

On this special day, you all have my very best wishes.

Sincerely,

John J. DeGioia