Tuskegee University celebrates King’s life and legacy


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (January 22, 2014) – Using some of black American history’s greatest figures as examples, students at Tuskegee University were given a lesson about leadership today. Former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, spoke at a university event honoring the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and said the Civil Rights figure demonstrated the right qualities needed in a leader. 

Tuskegee University Acting President Dr. Matthew
Jenkins, presents Dr. Louis W. Sullivan with the
Booker T. Washington Legacy Award. 
“[King] was a person who made a difference in the lives of all of us, not only here but around the globe,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan addressed the university community as well as 200 students from the Macon County School System about what it takes to grow into being a good and effective leader for the 21st Century. He said that a good leader has to have several qualities such as courage, creativity, intelligence, and perseverance. He said King’s leadership during the Montgomery Bus Boycott demonstrated many of these qualities. 

“Leaders have determination. They are not deterred by roadblocks; they find a way around them,” he said. “Martin Luther King was such a person.”

He also urged the students to prepare themselves for the future. He said that everyone was a beneficiary of the work of King and others who came before them.
“I challenge you here at Tuskegee University. Will you be the leaders we need for tomorrow?” he asked.

Diversity in health care needed

Sullivan is the founding dean and former president of The School of Medicine at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He also is chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professions. He is the author of “The Morehouse Mystique: Becoming a Doctor at the Nation’s Newest African American Medical School” and his autobiography “Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine.”

Sullivan said America’s population is rapidly becoming more diverse, but less than 10 percent of the nation’s health professionals are from minority backgrounds. He said that this disparity must change in order to adequately care for ethnic and underserved populations. He said it’s important that a physician understands the language, culture and social values of their patients’ backgrounds. 

“You must have trust and engage in a dialogue,” he said. “Well-trained people and a good science base, that is not enough.”

Holistic education

After his address, Tuskegee University Acting President Dr. Matthew Jenkins presented Sullivan with the Booker T. Washington Legacy Award. Jenkins said Sullivan’s remarks were timely and vital to helping supplement the students’ holistic educations. He said it was important that the students learn not to choose a future career based on money, but to follow a higher calling. 

“You’re expected to try and make humanity better,” Jenkins said. 

Jenkins also said the world is becoming more competitive and gathering as much information as possible is vital to success. As a child, he said he was an avid reader of the 12 periodicals that came to his home every month. He said being exposed to that knowledge changed his outlook on life. 

“I thought I could do anything. It’s a mindset,” Jenkins said. “It’s a mindset I hope you get.”

Dr. Louis W. Sullivan addresses the audience at King observance.

Audience listens at King observance.

© 2014 Tuskegee University

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