Thank you, Leslyn, for your kind words, and good morning to all of you! What an honor it is for me to be here with you today, to celebrate not only the life and legacy of one of the most significant people in the history of our nation, but our commitment to continuing the important, inspiring, and difficult work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I'd like to thank Leslyn and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center for inviting me to join you for breakfast, and for giving me the great honor of being the keynote speaker for this year's event.
As many of you may know, I am relatively new to the Ithaca area. I moved here in July to begin my position as Ithaca College's ninth president, and I have been humbled and touched by the warm welcome I've received, both on campus and within our community. I have deeply enjoyed getting to know my new hometown and my new neighbors.
Over the past six months, I've had wonderful opportunities to meet with many leaders, legislators, activists, and allies who live and work in Ithaca. One of the most touching came in early November, when Leslyn and her husband, J.R., joined many others within our community for a town-gown dinner that kicked off the college's weekend-long celebration of its 125th anniversary. It was wonderful to start the weekend honoring the college's roots with those who know the institution best: our neighbors.
Ithaca College was born in this town, not too far from where we are right now. As the college grew, it expanded both geographically and philosophically, a unique evolution that wouldn't have been possible anywhere else; in any other community. This town-gown relationship is incredibly special, and has influenced the growth and health of both partners in significant ways.
As president, I believe strongly in the importance of continuing to develop our relationship, of encouraging deep and meaningful connections that recognize our tremendous collective strength, while addressing our challenges as a community honestly and directly.
This belief speaks to one of the aspects of Dr. King's legacy that resonates strongly with me. He had the incredible courage and eloquence to clearly and unflinchingly identify the problems he saw in America and in the world: Racism. Poverty. Social injustice. Exploitation. Oppression. And in doing so, in naming these ills, he simultaneously offered hope. He offered a way forward, through service, through honest dialogue, through a commitment to change, and through an understanding that—no matter our differences of thought, socioeconomic status, education, or skin color—we are all connected and in that connection lies our potential.