More than 100 members of the Medical Campus community gathered in the Hiebert Lounge on Thursday, Jan. 18, to commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. This year the annual event featured a conversation with Jonathan Woodson, MD, director of the BU Institute for Health System Innovation and Policy.
Rafael Ortega, MD, associate dean of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, welcomed esteemed guests, including University Provost Jean Morrison, PhD; BUMC Provost and BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD; Associate Provost and Dean of Students Ken Elmore; and Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Crystal Williams.
Rev. Julian Armand Cook, assistant director of BU’s Howard Thurman Center, began the event with an invocation. “We are challenged, inspired and renewed by the vision and witness of Dr. King,” Cook proclaimed. “As we watch in concern, we will work in hope. Because justice may be deferred, it may be delayed, but it cannot be destroyed.”
Woodson’s presentation, “My Soul Looks Back, Lest I Forget,” reflected on his life growing up in New York during segregation, bussing and police riots. He shared the fears of his mother, who gave him a 5 p.m. curfew as police gathered on his street. He remembered the influence of his brother and sister, and their eagerness to be part of demonstrations. As the Civil Rights movement broke barriers, Woodson worked his way up the ranks of the Army. He shared memories of calls from his uncle, who was proud to be talking with a general.
Woodson holds the rank of Brigadier General in the US Army Reserves and served from 2010 to 2016 as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the US Department of Defense. There, he was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for all health and health protection issues while ensuring the effective execution of the Department’s medical mission.
“On a day like today, it’s important to look back with one’s soul. Do some introspection, [don’t] forget the lessons of the path, and find strength and optimism for the future,” said Woodson.
He concluded with asking, “What would MLK do?” and acknowledged some think this question is cliché, but he believes that the “conditions and challenges of the time in which he led provide a litmus test for clarity of purpose and values through which issues, challenges and efforts of today can be examined.
“We must examine this history with our souls.”
This event was sponsored by the BUSM Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Goldman School of Dental Medicine Office of Diversity, BU School of Public Health, and BMC Minority Recruitment Program.