As we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of a quote often attributed to him: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” King, of course, did both. In actions great and small, he helped to change the course of American society—an inspiration to all of us. I invite you to join me in following his lead and, in turn, carrying forward his legacy here at Yale.
We as a community are profoundly more diverse now, in 2015, than the university I joined as a graduate student more than thirty years ago. In our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, we reflect an ever-broader spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives—something I witness not just on campus but in the many trips I take (most recently to Florida last week) to visit our alumni communities. I take pride in the fact that this is true, because diversity in all its forms—“diverse diversity”—is essential to achieving Yale’s full potential for scholarly excellence.
Today, I encourage you to think of one small thing that you can do in a great way: something to help diversity flourish on our campus and in our community. Yale is a place where people in their everyday roles can be leaders, and I hope you will embrace this as both a privilege and a responsibility. So pick one small thing; talk about it with your lunch partner; make a shared commitment to action. Because change is not about the path of least resistance but about the road less traveled, one small but great step at a time.