An MLK Day message from our Interim President

Dear Ripon College community:

Today marks the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a time when our nation remembers the life and legacy of one of our great civil rights leaders. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embodied the ideals of servant leadership with a focus on the well-being of those around us, and it is our tradition at Ripon College to spend this important day in service and reflection.

Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to disrupt our plans to join together in service activities. We are grateful for Maria Mendoza-Bautista and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion team, who pivoted quickly to allow us to honor MLK Day while following our COVID-19 protocols.

This year’s celebration has particular meaning for me as I step into the role as Ripon’s interim president, helping to guide and serve the College over the next few months.

This morning, members of our community came together to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Drum Major Instinct” Sermon (more info here). Dr. King delivered it at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Feb. 4, 1968. In the sermon, an adaptation of a 1952 homily by J. Wallace Hamilton, Dr. King defined the drum major instinct as “a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first.” Rather than condemning the instinct as selfish, Dr. King reframed it with what he called a “new definition of greatness,” that of servant leadership. 

He delivered these memorable words: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.” Dr. King described a model for visible leaders to be active advocates for the values of the community they represent, and to put those shared values first.

I hope that all of us can reflect on our own personal drum major journeys. What causes or ideals will we choose to advocate for? How can we engage with others to promote the values of a servant leader? How will we show up to make our community a better place for all?

Our dedication to our mission, and our strong culture of shared governance, are two aspects of this community I find most energizing. I am spending time now reflecting on my role as a leader at Ripon College. As a faculty member and administrator, I have worked with many of you to develop programs and opportunities to prepare our students for lives of productive, socially responsible citizenship. We have collaborated to build new classrooms, centers and curricula. We have been able to operate during a global pandemic and financial challenges while still providing a richly personalized education. In putting the focus on the well-being of our students and our community first, surely we lift up Dr. King’s ideals.

As I chart a course for my time as interim president, I will be thinking about how I can be a drum major for the values of our institution. I will look for ways to put the academic, artistic and personal development of our students first. And, most importantly, I will look for your guidance and input as to how to provide the best advocacy and support for our community that I can during this interim period, in partnership with each of you.

I wish you all the best as we begin the semester. 

Andrea Young
Interim President


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