President H. James Williams, Ph.D., shares a profound message in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

dr. williams' head shot photo.

Monday, January 17, 2022


Dear Mount Community:

My father-in-law, who passed away in 2008, was a great man who loved his family passionately and served this Country diligently—and with distinction—during World War II. In 1963, he rode a bus, the 600 miles from Flint, Michigan to Washington, D.C., to listen to Dr. King share his dream with a Nation. It was a profound experience and memory for him. And he taught his children well…

Almost 46 years later, my family and I traversed, essentially, that same route, from Michigan to Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration of President Barak Obama, standing, essentially, on the same Mall. It was a wonderful experience that carried special meaning for all of us, especially my wife! The Country had certainly moved the needle forward on Dr. King’s dream.  

Indeed, we have made some progress. When I was in high school and being bussed out of my Winston-Salem, African American community to the mostly white Forsyth County schools, the Country referred to it as “de-segregation,” not “integration!” Then, we moved to use the term “integration,” and then “diversity,” as we have progressed. In fact, now, we use terms such as “equity” and “inclusion”—and we are making legitimate efforts to try to achieve them.

Yes, we have made significant progress—and it is tempting to sit back, relax, and admire our work. However, there is much more work to do before we can rest. Indeed, if I may adapt some words from Robert Frost: the world is lovely dark and deep, but we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep and miles to go before we sleep… unfinished business, indeed…

As I close, please consider this. When President Lincoln delivered to Congress, arguably, one of his most famous speeches, on December 1, 1862, he was issuing a major challenge to Congress to remove the shackles from their minds—and I reiterate: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The situation is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. And as our situation is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we can save our Country.”  

Now I challenge each and every one of us, in our own ways, to disenthrall ourselves, to unshackle our minds—our ways of thinking about human bondage, about slavery. Some of us are, essentially, slaves because our own minds remain in shackles—the shackles of ignorance, fear, and blaming everyone else for our shortcomings and “failures.”

The Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 was, as Frederick Douglas described it, only “the beginning of the end.” In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, the Civil Rights movement, the Voting Rights act, and even the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States are all just the beginnings…

Now, we must think anew and act anew; we must disenthrall ourselves and, then, we can make the differences we need to make to continue our inexorable move toward true freedom—that is, justice and equality! That is the “One Nation” about which Dr. King dreamed…  

In his famous “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, Dr. King spoke about the natural human instinct to want to be accomplished, to be first, and to receive praise and attention. However, he admonished us to control that natural instinct lest we become consumed in its negativity and harmful results. Finally, he provided a most fitting summary for all of us—which should speak to each of us.  

And I quote: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter… And that’s all I want to say.”

And that is all I say to you, “Be a Drum Major for Justice” in furtherance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of “One Nation,” because we have unfinished business and—after all—there are no accidents!


H. James Williams, Ph.D.