Letter from the Dean of the College January 2019

Dear Families,

On May 23, 1962, Martin Luther King spoke at Dartmouth. As the College celebrates the national King holiday, Dr. King's words at Dartmouth bear repeating: 

          .....I would like to use as a subject from which to speak this evening the future 
          of race relations in the United States. There are three basic attitudes that one 
          can take toward the question of progress in race relations. The first attitude that 
          can be taken is that of extreme optimism. The extreme optimist would contend 
          that we have made great strides in the area of race relations and he will point 
          proudly to the gains that have been made in the area of civil rights over the 
          last few decades. From this he would conclude that the problem is just about 
          solved now and that we can sit down comfortably by the wayside and wait on 
          the coming of the inevitable. The second position that can be taken is that of 
          extreme pessimism. The extreme pessimist in race relations would contend that 
          we have made only minor strides over the last few years. And he would argue 
          that the deep rumblings of discontent from the South, the presence of federal 
          troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the 
          birth of white citizens councils are all indicative of the fact that we are going 
          backwards instead of forwards and that we are creating many more problems 
          than we are solving. From this the extreme pessimist would conclude that there 
          can be no real progress in the area of race relations.

          Now it is interesting to notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme 
          pessimist agree on at least one point: they both feel that we must sit down and 
          do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says, “Do nothing 
          because integration is inevitable.” The extreme pessimist says, “Do nothing 
          because integration is impossible.” But there is a third position that can be taken; 
          namely, the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to 
          combine the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both. So the 
          realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way but he 
          would balance this by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way 
          to go before this problem is solved. And it is this realistic position that I would 
          like to use as a basis for our thinking together as we think of the future of race 
          relations in the United States. We have made significant strides. We have come a 
          long, long way. But we have a long, long way to go......

Dartmouth's mission is to prepare the most promising students for a lifetime of learning and responsible leadership. Our core values encourage independence of thought within a culture of collaboration, and embrace diversity with the knowledge that it significantly enhances the quality of a Dartmouth education. Our MLK Celebration, built around the theme "Standing at the Threshold", features a wide variety of opportunities to consider our values, reflect on Dr. King's legacy and to look to the future. I hope you'll encourage your students to take advantage of the arts performances, films, lectures, activities, and the Tucker Center's annual MLK Multi-Faith Celebration featuring the New Yorker poetry editor Dr. Kevin Young and the ever-popular Dartmouth Gospel Choir. In addition, I hope you’ll encourage your students to take advantage of the many courses, workshops, programs and activities on campus throughout the year that promote understanding across difference, and prepare our students to become leading citizens in the 21st century. 

With very best wishes for 2019-

Kathryn Lively
Interim Dean of the College
Professor of Sociology
South House Professor