On December 11, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped to the podium in Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. He took the opportunity to use what he called “this lofty and historic platform” to speak on the topics of civil rights, poverty, and war. At the conclusion of his speech, King took the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities, in keeping with the optimism of the moment:
“A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together . . . a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other. This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. . .
“In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. . . Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive.”
Burlington, Vermont is a long way from Atlanta, Georgia, and even further from Oslo, but as a community we are engaged in trying to solve problems that the world’s greatest and most compassionate minds have tackled for far longer than the forty-three years since King’s speech. Nonetheless, as we go forward, it is our hope that Board members, community members, parents, and students all will remember that our goal should be to raise a generation that will more successfully share this great “world house” than generations before them (including our own) that have failed to eradicate the scourges of prejudice, poverty, and war. We believe that integrating our children from the earliest ages is essential to this lofty goal, and that we all should aspire to nothing less.
Fred Lane and Amy Werbel
Ward Five School Commissioners
12 Catherine Street
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