Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream and Finding New Meaning in His Words

Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream and Finding New Meaning in His Words

Jan 18, 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last summer, spurred by the death of George Floyd and the long overdue reckoning with the systemic racism that continues to plague America that followed, I checked in with a lifelong friend to see if he was ok.

He wasn’t.

The conversation that followed led to a lot of reflecting on our experiences growing up together in the same small town in central Illinois, and eventually the decision to share those experiences together on our podcast. In a year that often seemed like a nonstop barrage of challenges and obstacles, that ability to pause and connect with a lifelong friend in a new way is a privilege I don’t take lightly.

I know that as a holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day means many things to many people. For some, it is a chance to remember and honor his legacy. For others, it is an opportunity to recommit to his spirit of service. But for me, it has often been a time to reflect on his dream and find new meaning in his words.

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Letter From The Birmingham Jail

As a nonpartisan organization committed to using data and evidence to improve well-being, Mathematica’s reputation depends on our obligation to stay above the partisan politics that frequently drive decisions about the policies, programs, and people we care so deeply about.

As an employee-owned organization dedicated to our mission of improving public well-being, our ability to bring our full selves to the work we do and the issues we are passionate about rests on an obligation to one another and the communities in which we work and live.

In the face of injustice, remaining objective does not mean remaining silent.

Make no mistake, what we saw unfold on Capitol Hill on January 6th wasn’t strictly a matter of partisan politics. This was more than an attack on the government chosen by the people to represent the will of the people. It was a grave assault on our democracy, and an undeniable display of the systemic racism and white supremacy that perpetuates harm against communities of color.

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

A Proper Sense of Priorities

Regardless of the political framing others may create around issues of racial justice and systemic racism, this issue transcends partisan politics. It therefore needs to be addressed by the entire evidence community, and we won’t be dissuaded from both saying so and taking action. Although we can and will have different political ideologies and opinions among us, I believe we must all rise to the defense of racial equity and justice regardless of our politics. No legitimate political ideology justifies hate.

I am still struggling with the images and implications of these events, and I am deeply concerned about the ongoing threat of additional attacks in Washington and in seats of government around the country.

But I’m also more determined than ever that we as individuals, as a collective, and as a society must confront this violence—and the conspiracies and disinformation that fuel it—by doing what we have always done, putting evidence first.

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."

Stride Toward Freedom

Like our country, Mathematica is a unique place full of unique individuals. Like our country, our workplace is strengthened by our differences. And like our country, there is little room for inaction in the face of injustice, or silence under the guise of objectivity.

As Mathematica strives to be an advocate for evidence and to create a more equitable and just world in the service of improving public well-being, there are going to be moments when some may wish our collective voice was louder. There will be moments when others may think we have gone too far. But I am confident that as long as we continue to remember our dual obligations to objectivity and one another, and as long as we continue to put the evidence first, we will find ourselves, our company, and our country on solid footing.

About the Author

Paul Decker

Paul Decker

President and Chief Executive Officer
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