MLK Lecture Keynote Speaker Challenges Community to Seek Authenticity and the Courage to Lead

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Each year, Georgia Tech commemorates the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. with the Institute’s MLK Celebration, which, this year, carried the theme “Civil Rights to Human Rights: The Courage to Lead.” 

“Georgia Tech is an academic institution that is dedicated to inclusive excellence. Through our MLK Celebration, we are pleased to honor the lives of civil rights leaders like Dr. King and Julian Bond, as the journey continues for social justice and sustainable social change,” said Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity.

Traditionally, the MLK Celebration’s educational programs and service opportunities kick off with the MLK Lecture. On January 13, MLK Lecture Keynote Speaker Jeffrey Johnson delivered an inspiring speech to nearly 500 students, faculty, staff, and community members in the Student Center Ballroom. Entitled “Unclaimed Legacy: Who Will Lead the Next Social Movement?”, Johnson’s remarks challenged attendees to celebrate the real legacy of Dr. King and create transformation by speaking the truth, maybe becoming a little uncomfortable, and gaining the courage to lead.

Johnson, an award-winning journalist, activist, and thought leader, also posed the following questions:

  • Are we willing to be our authentic selves, which can be difficult in higher education institutions?
  • What does it mean to have a real social movement like #BlackLivesMatter?
  • Are we prepared to cast out visions that no longer make sense?
  • Can we create a seemingly ridiculous vision that its leaders will not see realized in their lifetimes?
  • In your own life, how will you lead? Who will be part of your ecosystem of leadership? Who will you touch? What will you transform?

“Dr. King knew the importance of being surrounded by an ecosystem of leadership that enabled him to deliver the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” remarked Johnson. “However, we keep hearing the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech because it is used to manipulate emotions out of leaders who lack vision today. If Dr. King was living in 2016, why would he still be dreaming a 1960s dream?”

Colin Potts, vice provost of Undergraduate Education, who expressed his support for having discussions generated by such thought-provoking addresses more often, said, “This MLK Lecture challenged us to not be self-satisfied and retreat to the same language as the 1960s.”

To continue these discussions at Georgia Tech, Institute Diversity and the African-American Student Union will host the Black History Month Lecture on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Black History Month Lecture Keynote Speaker Benjamin Crump, partner of Parks & Crump Law Firm and known for his cases with civil rights implications, will discuss “The Criminal Justice System, #BlackLivesMatter, and College Student Activism Today.” To register for this event, visit

To learn more about the MLK Celebration and to view Johnson’s MLK Lecture, visit



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Annette Filliat
  • Created:01/27/2016
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016