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President Johnson delivers keynote address for MLK Day breakfast

‘Ohio State has obligation to advance equality of opportunity’

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson delivered the keynote address today for the 37th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Breakfast. Johnson used the speech to focus on the land-grant mission of Ohio State and the role it should play in supporting access and opportunity.

The annual breakfast is Columbus’ signature event to honor the legacy of the civil rights hero on the national holiday commemorating his life. The event was hosted virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How long? Not Long,” the theme of the breakfast, is taken from the speech “Our God Is Marching On!” that King delivered following the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to call for voting rights for African Americans in the South.

“For me, the challenges of taking on the leadership of Ohio State in the problematic year of 2020 really clarified something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Johnson said. “The fact that if you lead an educational institution in the United States, you cannot lead in just terms of research and teaching and consider your job done. Education is not peripheral to questions of social justice.”

This year’s virtual MLK Jr. Day of Service will include at-home service and educational opportunities this week.

Ohio State will host its own celebration of King’s life later this month. The 50th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will be a virtual event at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 25. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center hosts the celebration each year.

The featured speaker is Van Jones, a CNN host, political commentator, Emmy Award-winning producer and author of three New York Times best-selling books. The celebration is free and open to the public.

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