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'Ethically, we haven't yet made the community Dr. King envisioned'

On the day the Bush administration announced it would join those challenging the University's affirmative action admissions policies, a second-generation Mexican American woman who was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to excel through the public education system added her reflections to the symposium honoring King.

Janet Marguia, executive vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Kansas (KU), spoke Jan. 15 to the 10th Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) MLK Symposium at Rackham Auditorium.

Murguia earned three degrees from KU, including a juris doctorate in1985. Beginning in 1994, she worked at the White House in various key political positions, and before returning to KU in 2001, she worked in the Gore/Lieberman campaign.

She told the audience that on the final Sunday of King's lifeMarch 31, 1968he was in the pulpit of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. His sermon was titled "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution." King referred to a three-pronged revolution comprising technology, weaponryprimarily nuclearand civil rights that all presented challenges to the community of all mankind, Marguia said.

"Today an explosion of freedom is taking place throughout the world. Scientific genius is bringing the world closer together. But ethically, we haven't yet made the community Dr. King envisioned," Marguia said.

"It is important that we remain awake during the revolutions of our own time," she said. "We have a digital divide, where too many people still have no access to the advantages of computers and the Web. People of color are underrepresented and still stereotyped in the programming on the multiplying channels of cable television.

"Don't you think Dr. King would be challenging us to take action to hold the programmers accountable?"

Marguia then turned her focus to the challenges of affirmative action, represented by the U-M cases due to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States this spring.

"Affirmative action can't be just about people of color being given preferential treatment," she said. "I don't care what we call it, but it has to be about creating opportunities for everyone to achieve the American dream. I watched my parents live discrimination, but I was given the opportunity after years of public education to work in the West Wing of the White House. We all ought to have these chances in this country. Education is the key."

She mentioned that King spoke of a "dream deferred" in 1963, when he envisioned the day his four children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

"I wonder if he might now dream of a time when our society might be judged, not by our technical accomplishments or our economic strength, but by the content of our community," Marguia said.

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