Martin Lunther King Jr. Luncheon - Introduction of Guest Speaker, Juan Williams

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good afternoon, friends, colleagues, and guests.


Rather than review Juan Williams’s notable career in journalism and publishing that you can read about inside today’s program booklet, I would instead like to share a personal note about Mr. Williams.  He and I have something in common, which is that we both attended Quaker-affiliated high schools and then the same Quaker-affiliated liberal arts college on the Main Line of Philadelphia.  What makes this latter fact noteworthy is that the college we attended, at least when we were students there, was exceptionally small.  Haverford College enrolled a total of 450 students during each of my four years of undergraduate study, approximately 110 students per class, which means that, at the very most, Haverford has graduated about as many students in its 175 years of existence as UNF graduates in no more than four or five.  Thus, to find a fellow Haverfordian is something of a rarity.


It was precisely because he was a prominent alumnus of our very small college that I began to pay attention to Juan Williams early in his career.  Very quickly, however, it was his career itself that summoned my attention and not the fact that we shared an alma mater, and it was on the basis of his career that I recommended to my good friend Oupa Seane that Mr. Williams would be a stunningly appropriate speaker at our Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon, an event that I regard as among the most important on the university’s annual calendar.


I would like to suggest that Mr. Williams and Dr. King share certain significant attributes.  Like Dr. King, Mr. Williams is an extraordinarily articulate man of words.   It is by virtue of his command of language that Mr. Williams has been so effective in his multiple roles as interviewer, reporter, writer, and educator.  Mr. Williams also uses language to exhort.  To exhort, of course, requires that one be passionate, and here again Mr. Williams has this feature in common with Dr. King.  Juan Williams’s passion, like Dr. King’s, is engendered by and has as its goal the eradication of inequality, injustice, intolerance and the inaction, both by blacks and whites alike, that permits those various forms of inhumanity to have endured long past the point that they plausibly should have in a nation that regards itself as civil, principled, and democratic.  It is for this reason, perhaps, that Mr. Williams was particularly drawn to the career of Thurgood Marshall, another man of words and one of this nation’s most prominent civil rights activists.  It was Thurgood Marshall who so famously used the power of the court to achieve educational equity for citizens who throughout the 100 years since the end of the Civil War were shamefully discriminated against on the basis of the benighted belief that to be different from someone else renders one inferior to someone else.


I trust Mr. Williams will not reject the notion that, in the best spirit of Quakerism, he embodies the values that he promotes by enacting his own conscience in a most public way.  If he can legitimately ask us to take responsibility both for ourselves and for one another it is because he himself has taken such responsibility by engaging in a pursuit whose most tangible reward will be the betterment of society far more than any personal gain he may derive from his efforts.  But I hope you will join me in demonstrating to Mr. Williams that, no matter how much he might prefer to measure his personal reward by the progress of others, we do indeed regard him as a distinguished guest and that we deeply appreciate his presence here today.


Thank you, Oupa, for this opportunity to offer these words of welcome.


Mark E. Workman, Provost and VPAA