A Message on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

A Message on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today we honor and celebrate the birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. We speak Dr. King’s name with great meaning and reflect on his monumental role in America’s Civil Rights Movement. We give thoughtful consideration today to Dr. King’s place in history and the challenges before us to achieve racial equity.

Senselessly murdered at the age of 39, Dr. King was a giant of inspired vision and unrelenting passion for racial equity and social justice. Our national polarization on civil rights is evident even in the contention surrounding establishing a day to honor his legacy. First proposed shortly after Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, it was 11 years before the day gained recognition as a federal holiday.

In a world rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent history of January 2020 seems like another era when Dr. Bernice King visited our campus in Oklahoma City and called upon her audience to remember her father’s vision of local and national communities built upon love, nonviolence, and reconciliation. The most constructive and beneficial change is that which begins inwardly, she reminded us, and persuasion is often the catalyst for the transformation of thoughts and attitudes.

If the COVID-19 pandemic were to span decades, the ongoing impact that would decimate culture, commerce, and community defies imagination. However, no imagination is required for us to see the corrosive impact of social and political systems that have oppressed certain populations in our nation and around the world for centuries.

We can only speculate on the “what ifs,” had Dr. King’s life not been cut short. Other champions have courageously carried the torch in the face of systemic racism, relentlessly pursuing civil rights for all. Today, we are beneficiaries of their combined effort. We acknowledge the “what ifs” and “if onlys” with sorrow but recognize we must have the strength to look to the future. Like Dr. King, we must ever renew our vision and determination to see what might be, what should be, and finally achieve what should have been our reality decades ago.

With the painful images of George Floyd’s death and all of the tragedies surrounding the racial divides in our country seared in our minds, hearts, and collective consciences, can we ask, “What if…..” and renew the momentum and drive toward a future in which America truly becomes the nation our founders envisioned? Ensuring true freedom for all is a responsibility of all. The promise of America is rooted in the opportunity for all to engage in every activity – education, work, worship, and leisure – that promotes better quality of life and builds people of character, compassion, and service. We invite the OU Health community to unite against racism in all of its forms, whether overt or implicit. As leaders in healthcare, we witness the human condition every day in both triumph and struggle, and are committed to improving the lives of all people through our combined efforts across the enterprise.

We close with these words of Dr. King: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”


Chuck Spicer, FACHE
President and CEO, OU Medicine, Inc.

Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA
Senior Vice President and Provost, OU Health Sciences Center
Acting Chair, OU Medicine, Inc. Board of Directors