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Celebrating Progress with a “Long, Long Way to Go”

Chalak Richards, Associate Dean of Student Life, Diversity and Belonging, encourages leadership in the cause of justice:

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I find myself turning to a speech he made in 1957. In “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,” Dr. King challenged attendees of the St. Louis Freedom Rally to take a realistic look at progress. Words from this speech inspired the Diversity and Belonging theme for this year - a community of peacemakers - and those words are where I turn now. 

I believe that this MLK Day finds Pepperdine Caruso Law in a similar position to the group in St. Louis. We, too, have come “a long, long way” on progress for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. We have taken great strides to create a place where all members of our community know that they belong. Much of this progress has come from students, faculty, staff, and alumni who worked for years to “walk in dignity.” You have chosen to lead open conversations, provide pro bono and low bono legal services, donate significant funds for scholarship support, bring speakers to the school, and love and pray for each other. 

Because we are a community that cares, the temptation for us at Caruso Law is to become “victims of an optimism which makes for deadening complacency and stagnant passivity.” It would be very easy for us to look at all of the progress we have made and determine that we are good enough. While we can and must celebrate our accomplishments, we must also continue to recognize and address the needs of our marginalized and historically underserved communities.

Instead, we must hold in tension the truth that we still have “a long, long way to go.” The truth of the legal profession and justice system is that there is much progress to be made to realize the dream for everyone to view the justice system as a place where they belong. I challenge you, Caruso Law, to embrace the charge to be leaders in the cause of justice. Be leaders who recognize that though it be slow, though it be daunting, though it takes courage, justice is always worth the fight. Be leaders who, like Dr. King, “stand today amid the wilderness toward the promised land of freedom and justice.” 

Learn more about Diversity and Belonging at Pepperdine Caruso Law.