Graduates of Oberlin Must Continue Justice Work

Anh Lê, Parent

To the Editors:

My son, College senior Minh-Jeffrey Lê, will be graduating with a degree in Economics from Oberlin College in May.

My family and I applaud and congratulate Minh-Jeffrey and all of the graduating seniors. We also send our warmest and best wishes to all Oberlin College students and the people in the town of Oberlin.

We also wish to express our deepest thanks and gratitude to College President Marvin Krislov for his leadership, all the dedicated professors and hardworking staff members of Oberlin and the Oberlin students for making Oberlin College the special, rich and unique place that it is and for nurturing the rich tradition and legacy that it is renowned for.

My family and I are proud and humbled that Minh-Jeffrey will be graduating from this distinctive institution of higher learning, the first college to admit Black students and the first co-ed college to award bachelor’s degrees to women.

We are delighted to know that Jessye Norman, world renowned opera singer and one of my favorite singers, will be receiving the honorary doctorate and will be the Commencement speaker. Jessye Norman is not only opera singer extraordinaire, she also founded the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in Augusta, GA, which provides tuition-free programs in music and the arts for middle and high school students. She has also expanded her music endeavors to jazz. This fact has extra special meaning for our family, as Minh-Jeffrey is a jazz musician himself.

First Lady Michelle Obama, in her Commencement speech last year, stated, “If you truly wish to carry on the Oberlin legacy of service and social justice, then you need to run to, and not away from, the noise. Today, I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find. Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens — the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds.” She reminded Oberlin students and all of us that climate change, economic inequality, human rights and criminal justice are among the most pressing issues confronting us.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Commencement speech at Oberlin in 1965, urged and called on Oberlin graduates to uphold the values of “embracing peace,” “working for peace” and “opposing the waging of war and killing of other human beings.” Dr. King called on graduates to “achieve a world perspective” and “to work passionately and unrelentingly to get rid of racial injustice in all its dimensions” and “to get rid of violence, hatred and war.”

It is ironic that Dr. King, who called for peace negotiations and the end to the Vietnam War, shared the Commencement stage with Dean Rusk, then Secretary of State and the main architect of U.S. government policy that escalated that tragic war.

Dr. King stated, “Today, you bid farewell to the safe security of the academic environment. You prepare to continue your journey on the clamorous highways of life.”

It is in the joyful spirit of Jessye Norman’s music and the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, words that MinhJeffrey and my family and I bid, Chúc mùng den tat ca cac sinh vien o Truong Dai Hoc Oberlin! (“Congratulations to all Oberlin College students!”)

Anh Lê