Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 16, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Every year, on the third Monday of January, we honor and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was the first modern private citizen to be honored with a national holiday, but it is worth remembering that even the seemingly obvious decision to designate a day in his honor did not come without a fight. Immediately after King’s assassination in 1968, efforts were made to honor his legacy with a federal holiday. It wasn’t until fifteen years later that Congress passed a bill to designate the holiday, and it wasn’t until eighteen years later—in 1986—that the federal holiday was first celebrated. While some states immediately observed the holiday, others lagged. Indeed, several states combined the holiday with celebrations of confederate leaders, a practice that states like Mississippi and Alabama continue to this day.

Today we take the time to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and the ways in which he challenged our society to engage in change driven by love. Dr. King explained that “[o]ur goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” May we use Dr. King’s words to continue to call ourselves into action; to not just honor his legacy with our words, but to do so every day through how we approach our work and our community. As a Jesuit and Catholic university, committed to the dignity of all human beings, we have the tools and capacity to fulfill Dr. King’s vision—to find love and hope but to also discern that progress does not come without sacrifice and that the remedy to past and present inequities does not come without action.

It is no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday observed as a day of service. As you reflect on this day and serve in the ways in which you are called to serve, let us also take time to honor the sacrifices that have been made and recommit to the work that remains. Please also join our campus community on Tuesday, January 17, at 6:30 p.m. for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration 2023, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The celebration, “Changing the Narrative, Continuing the Dream,” will feature a keynote by Hiawatha D., an acclaimed local artist, and Veronica Very, the founder of Wonder of Women International and the WOW Gallery. In marking this day, through our individual reflections and collective actions, may we build a beloved Seattle University community that lights the way.  


Eduardo M. Peñalver

Natasha Martin
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion