Teach Dr. King's Speech

Resources for reflecting on Dr. King's "A Time to Break the Silence" speech

December 2016

Dear Georgetown Faculty and Staff,

This year, Georgetown University's “Let Freedom Ring!” Initiative honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will provide the opportunity to continue the conversations on our campus about our capacity to bring about social change. Guided by Dr. King's April 4, 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” we encourage all members of the university to reflect on urgent problems that demand social action, with the hashtag #GUMustSpeak.

Georgetown’s events honoring the legacy of Dr. King are highlighted by this year’s “Let Freedom Ring!” Celebration at the Kennedy Center and the spotlight on this year’s John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Awardee Abel Enrique Núñez, Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). Events continue through the month of February and celebration of Black History Month and the rest of the semester. All Georgetown community members are invited to participate in the MLK Day of Service on Saturday, January 14, 2017 (register here). A growing event calendar with details is available here and includes a screening of Agents of Change on January 23, a workshop on Transformative Allyship on February 21, and an all day Symposium “The University: Breaking the Silence” on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech.  

In the last four years, diverse faculty across the University have participated in a cross-campus curricular initiative by teaching Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (2013), about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (2014), Dr. King’s “The Other America” speech (2015), and his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech in their courses.

This year, the Provost’s Office encourages faculty to “Teach the Speech” and assign Dr. King's speech - “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” (original text) (pdf) (audio) - in their courses anytime during the Spring 2017 semester. Faculty are further encouraged to incorporate reflections on the report written by the Working Group for Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation in their courses.

To commit your Spring 2017 course or unit to this cross-campus curricular initiative, please fill out this Google Interest Form. On the form, you can also RSVP for the Break the Silence Teach-In, a lunch and half-day teaching workshop, on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 from 11:30am-2:30pm in St. William Chapel in Copley Residence Hall (note: new location), co-hosted by the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and Center for Social Justice (CSJ). The session will feature a keynote address by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Assistant Professor of African American History at University of Florida, and author of Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in the United States, and winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Dr. Kendi will speak on the context of the United States at the time that Dr. King gave this speech and its implications for today. Faculty will provide reflections on their classroom experiences with Dr. King’s speech and the Working Group report. Following the Q&A, CSJ and CNDLS will facilitate a working session for faculty and staff on how to intentionally incorporate the speech and/or report in the classroom and campus spaces and what issues to consider when doing so. Further resources for teaching the speech can be found here.

We invite all Georgetown faculty and staff to commit time within their unit, office, or program to read and reflect on Dr. King’s speech and the Working Group report with their colleagues and students. We invite members of the Main, Medical, Law, and Qatar campus communities to join in this effort.

With best wishes for a productive conclusion to this fall semester,

Bob Groves