Glaude: King Day is a reminder of democracy's unfinished experiment

Jan. 20, 2003 5:50 p.m.

Commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an opportunity not just to celebrate past triumphs of the civil rights movement, but also to address America's lingering struggles with racism, poverty and arrogance, Eddie Glaude Jr. said Jan. 20 in the keynote address of Princeton University's annual King Day tribute.

"This holiday can remind us that our democracy is incomplete -- that our form of associated living stands as an ideal toward which we strive and, perhaps, will never achieve," said Glaude, an associate professor of religion who joined the Princeton faculty last year. "What better way to celebrate King's prophetic witness than to remember that hubris darkens the soul and blinds us to a world in need?"

Glaude's rousing speech followed the presentation of awards for area students in the University's annual King Day essay and poster contests, as well as a performance by CASYM Steel Orchestra, a group of students from New York appearing at its third King Day event.

Before Glaude's address, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said of King: "In addition to remembering the man, we also remember his message and rededicate ourselves to the values and the goals that he so eloquently articulated and for which he so passionately fought."

In his remarks, Glaude noted that "too often this holiday and King's legacy are thought of as simply a moment in our past -- as a time when the nation had not quite gotten it right." But today, amid economic uncertainty, the looming specter of war and continuing battles with racism in America, King's legacy serves as a notice that the nation remains "an unfinished experiment in democracy," he said.

"A national holiday in his honor ought to be a reminder of the incompleteness and fragility of our democracy, not a celebration of American triumphalism," Glaude noted. "And in these times of war and hubris, Americans need to be reminded of just how fragile and fallen we are."

Several hundred members of the University and local communities attended the event, offering a standing ovation at its conclusion.

The full text of Glaude's speech is available online . A Webcast of the event can be viewed at WebMedia .

Contact: Eric Quinones (609) 258-3601