Emory Report
January 20, 2009
Volume 61, Number 16



Emory Report homepage  

January 20
, 2009
Moved to serve by Martin Luther King Jr.

Carol Gee is an editor for Goizueta Business School.

As this year’s Community Service Awards Program in memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. occurs, America will have installed its first African American president. For me in particular, and for many African Americans in general, the nomination of Barack Obama has demonstrated that while we still have a ways to go before we can truly say that we have “overcome” as a race, it gives us hope that maybe we are moving in the right direction.

In adopting “Dreaming with the Courage to Act” as this year’s theme, the King Week awards program will again recognize those individuals and organizations that not only envision solutions to the inequities that characterize the world in which we live, but those whom, like President Obama, possess the courage to act, and to persevere in the face of extremely challenging circumstances.

My membership on what is fondly called the MLK Committee segued via my role as assistant to the founder and chair of the first-ever Rollins School of Public Health MLK Program in 1993. This initial program was conceived to provide the opportunity for the RSPH family to reflect and learn from the work and teachings of Dr. King.

That first year, I assisted with every aspect of sponsoring a program for the very first time. This involved creating the invitation list which included inviting individuals from all over campus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and individuals from the greater Atlanta community. I secured the program site, coordinated program logistics, oversaw the reception, and managed the program budget.

Still high from the success of that initial program, the following year I assumed even more responsibility (if that was possible!) and rallied faculty and students across the school to participate. Around that same time, I also became RSPH’s representative to the University’s MLK Holiday Observance Committee, which meant reporting on our school’s activities and ensuring they were included on the University-wide Holiday Observance Calendar.

In 1999, the Rollins School of Public Health partnered with Goizueta Business School to co-sponsor what over the years transitioned into the Community Service Awards Program. The program recognizes those members in our community who raise awareness, and impel action that embody the values articulated by Dr. King. Upon accepting my current position at Goizueta, I soon became its University representative as well.

Over the years I’ve been called “the sustainability link” between the past and the present for an event that has evolved in reaching out to recognize those innovators of change within our community. I humbly accept this accolade, while a little voice inside wonders: hey, are they saying that I’m old?

As I reflect back on the 15-plus years that I had the privilege of serving on both of these committees, my love and respect and commitment have remained steadfast. In truth, serving on these committees has renewed my own personal commitment to fighting stereotypes, ageism and sexism, which I hope that I am doing by “paying it forward” as a mentor, and writing books and articles that empower girls and women to celebrate their humanity.

Dr. King once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have college degrees to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

So I invite each and everyone to serve on a committee like the MLK Holiday Observance, or attend or participate in the myriad programs on campus or in the Atlanta community. I guarantee that you’ll be inspired; even energized. Perhaps you too will discover your own bliss. I have.