Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time to reflect on our greatest hopes for our nation. For those of us in the public health community, it is a chance to reaffirm our commitment to addressing the country’s enormous health disparities that are driven by racism and remain one of our most formidable challenges.
In looking back at the teachings of Dr. King and thinking of the many ways that public health and social justice go hand in hand, I was reminded of this special photo. It is from 1966 and the woman in the center is Bloomberg School Professor Emerita Laura Morlock—still a college student at the time it was taken.
Dr. Morlock was kind enough to share her memories from this meeting. Here they are:
When I was an undergraduate student in the 1960s at Michigan State University, a group of students and faculty, in partnership with Rust College, organized a series of enhanced educational programs for high school students in northern Mississippi.
Dr. Martin Luther King came to our campus in February 1965 and again in March 1966 to help us raise funds to support these projects. I had the incredible privilege, during his 1965 visit, of introducing him to an audience of more than 4,000 people who came to hear him at our fund raiser. In this picture, from his 1966 visit, I am introducing him to Lenore Romney, who was the wife of the Michigan governor.
Dr. King has been widely acclaimed for his many accomplishments, but I think it is less well known how much time and effort he spent in tirelessly crisscrossing the country to support hundreds of grassroots projects like ours, working to further our shared dream of social justice for all.
Our work to build a more equitable world will not always happen in grand moments and major breakthroughs—it comes through our everyday commitment and often-unsung efforts. I am grateful to the many members of the Bloomberg School community who show up, day in and day out, to help advance health equity and build a more just world.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor