Every week, EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield explores topics related to education, learning, leadership and more. Be sure to check back each week for the latest.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Junior Day has been a federally recognized holiday since 1986, giving each of us a chance to reflect upon and observe the contributions of, arguably, the greatest civil rights leader of our time. And while it’s easy to remember the man on the third Monday every January, it’s important to recognize that his message of inclusion, mutual respect, diversity and love are tenets we would all do well to carry in our hearts every day of the year.

Personally, I’ve always placed a high premium on these things. Only when we are open to the ideas and cultures and world views of others, can we expand our own thinking. Only by including others in the personal and professional conversations we have every day, will we shed the burden of short-sighted thinking that plagues so many of our institutions.

Because of Dr. King’s method of non-violent confrontation, laws were passed to ensure diversity in our communities, laws that make it easier for people of color and all backgrounds to play an equal role in society. But laws can only do so much. Such laws have made great strides to create diversity in our offices, schools, government and society at large. But diversity is not the same as inclusion.

As Verna Myers once said, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Put another way, diversity can be legislated and forced into being. Inclusion is a choice. Willingly making the choice to bring those different than ourselves to the table and opening our ears to their thoughts, ideas and perspectives is something that must come from the heart.

In the words of Dr. King, “We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu – a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

Those who know me know I am a man of faith. My faith commands me to advocate for those who need a voice and, when I can, speak for them. As superintendent of the state’s third-largest public school system, I am fortunate to have a position that allows me to do that. As many of us enjoy this holiday weekend, I would ask that, no matter what you do or where you are, take time to reflect on how you can stand up for those whose voices are not always heard.

Invite them to dance.

Dare Greatly,

Bart