MLK Day Celebrations, Rejecting Racism, and Democracy at Work

This week began on a high note as we celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King taught us that hate is never the answer, and that engaged citizens are the greatest protector of democracy and equality. We are especially indebted to Dr. King here in Alabama. After marrying a Perry County girl, he came back to Alabama to teach nonviolence and lead a peaceful movement to extend the vote to all Alabamians and, in effect, all Americans.

After celebrating the profound progress we have made on Monday, we were quickly reminded that the march continues and that the fight to eradicate racism is far from done. As a graduate of the University of Alabama, I was proud of Dr. Bell and his administration’s reaction, free from hesitation, to a student’s racist rant made public earlier this week. The student’s hate-filled language was posted to social media, where no one is guarded from her actions, and the University subsequently expelled her within hours. I applaud that swift and decisive action. No display of racism should be tolerated by of our state’s esteemed institutions, especially those dedicated to instilling the virtues of higher learning. But as a public servant, I know our institutions can only do so much.

Hostility and openly displayed disrespect toward others must not be laughed off or silently tolerated by peers. Our state, her universities, and her halls of justice must be perceived as inhospitable toward these types of backward attitudes and behaviors. But so too should our social settings. It is up to each of us to ensure that we are respectful of all people, and that we treat everyone with dignity. It is up to us to hold our family, friends, and neighbors accountable.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview with Roy Johnson and John Archibald from AL.com. Stay tuned for the John Archibald interview and read Roy’s here. I am so grateful for the hard work done by journalists across America in pursuit if fairness, justice, and truth. There is a reason that theirs is the only profession protected by and codified in our U.S. Constitution. I know that these guys (and journalists like them across America) take very seriously this responsibility and the canons of journalistic ethics.

We ended the week on an incredibly high note as we had the opportunity to see democracy at work across Alabama. Members of my team represented me at women’s events in Huntsville and Birmingham, and I had the opportunity to participate in the Women’s March here in Montgomery. I also had many dear friends in attendance at the women’s event in Mobile. I applaud the dedicated organizers for making these events a reality, especially on the heels of an all-consuming Senate special election. Active, engaged citizenship is the bedrock of American democracy, and I was proud to see so many powerful women (and the men who support them) taking direct action and involving themselves in the process. The level of participation we saw on Saturday further solidifies that 2018 is the “Year of the Woman.” There is much work to be done.

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