Skip to main content

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jan. 18, 2021

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He did not hold high public office, nor was he a military hero. We honor him for, in his own resonant phrase, “the content of his character.” He gave voice to the fundamental defining values of this nation – equality and freedom – that are what really make America great. Not through coercion or force but through the eloquence of his speech and the power of his moral compass, he bent the arc of history towards justice.

His work is far from over; perhaps it never will be. It is heartening when we see evidence of progress, such as the swearing-in this week of the first U.S. Vice President of color who is also the first woman elected to this office. And even as brutalities against minorities remain a reality, the events of this past year have demonstrated that large numbers of our fellow citizens are willing to raise their voices against inequality and injustice, and to do so, following the example of Dr. King, peacefully.

The recent events at the U.S. Capitol have illustrated, in ways more shocking and brutal than we might have imagined, how much more work we as a nation have before us. While we would like to think that “this is not us,” if we are to move forward together we must honestly acknowledge that racism and inequality have been realities in America since its founding, even embedded in our very Constitution, until amended over the years.

Our medical school was created by this community with a mission to serve our neighbors’ needs. Our mission statement cites inclusion as one of our core principles. As we go out today, and every day, in service to this community; as our students pursue the community service that is a fundamental element of their educational experience, let us do so in the spirit of those values we cherish. This is how we honor the spirit and legacy of Dr. King. This is how we pursue, one act of kindness at a time, Dr. King’s great dream that together we can realize our nation’s founding promises of freedom, justice and equality.

- Steven J. Scheinman, MD
President and Dean, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Geisinger