Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. preached both civil disobedience and nonviolence during his short, but monumental, life — and 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of his murder.
An annual event at the University of Wyoming aims to reflect on the progress made during the past half century with a week full of events both contemplative and celebratory.
Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago said the Martin Luther King, Jr. Days of Dialogue offered UW a chance to think about the contributions King made to the world.
“It’s really to reflect on where we are today and really think about how Dr. King gave us vision, gave us inspiration and faith,” she said. “I think he also gave us courage to be better people and to create a better United States and a better world.”
King helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He campaigned for civil rights throughout the 1950s and 1960s until his assassination April 4, 1968.
King has since been honored with his own national holiday, which falls on the third Monday of January and will be observed Monday.
UW’s Days of Dialogue runs from Jan. 29-Feb. 3, when students have returned for the spring semester.
Assistant Dean of Students Ryan O’Neil said the week offered a chance to consider progress made on the UW campus and throughout Wyoming, but to also take a wider view.
“We thought it was a good moment for reflection,” O’Neil said. “With all that’s happening nationally, it seems a good time to be asking the question: ‘What would Dr. King think of the progress we have made? Would he classify it as progress?’”
The annual UW event traces its history to 2002, when the Division of Student Affairs hosted the first Days of Dialogue to both celebrate King’s dream and encourage the campus to think about and foster inclusivity.
The week kicks off with the traditional events — a march and rally in the Wyoming Union Skylight Lounge, followed by supper in the Union Ballroom.
For 2018, the week also includes exhibitions, presentations, a panel discussion and screenings of “Marshall,” a 2017 film about Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
“It’s a great mix of programs,” Monago said. “And we hope to engage people at every level.”
The 2018 keynote speaker, Jason Thompson, is a UW graduate who has worked in a number of diversity-related jobs and received numerous awards for his contributions to the field.
He gives his address 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Union Ballroom.
Thompson is currently the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the United States Olympic Committee, but has also worked as director of diversity at University of Colorado at Denver, where he launched a successful program aimed at accelerating Latino student success in higher education.
His work for the Olympic Committee has garnered him multiple Profiles in Diversity Journal awards, and contributed to his department receiving the Diversity Champion Award for Excellence from the Colorado Society for Human Resource Management.
While a student at UW, Thompson served as the first black ASUW president.
“We’re really exciting about having him come back,” Monago said. “And he’s really excited, too. He’s going to be, not just being the keynote, but plans to meet with different students and hold lectures with classrooms.”
On Feb. 3, the Service, Leadership and Community Engagement Office is hosting a service day, then the week is capped off with the Diversity Ball, hosted by the United Multicultural Council.
“I think we have such a variety of programs and events happening during the week at various times,” Monago said. “We should have something to appeal to almost anyone. So, if a person can attend only one event that week, we encourage them to go to that one event. But if they can go to multiple, we would love to see them there.”