The SVSU Office of Diversity Programs will host the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.
Karen S. Carter, The Dow Chemical Company’s first Chief Inclusion Officer, will be featured as this year’s keynote speaker. This year’s theme is “Working Together, Sharing the Dream.”
Carter will have a conversation about King’s dream with Matt Davis, president for Dow North America. Davis will ask Carter questions about her role at Dow and her recommendations for students, faculty, parents and businesspeople on how to keep the dream alive.
Carter became Chief Inclusion Officer in July. As Chief Inclusion Officer, Carter said she focuses on cultivating a workplace culture that embraces inclusion and diversity.
“You’ll hear me talk about inclusion first and diversity next,” Carter said. “Diversity is a reality, but inclusion is a choice. You can have a very diverse workforce, but if your environment doesn’t embrace or value all of those unique differences that people bring every day, then you’re not reaping the full benefits of having a diverse workforce.”
Carter said she finds fulfillment through her passion for people and ensuring equal opportunity.
“It’s really important that we intentionally ensure that, regardless of the demographics, everybody feels like they belong here,” Carter said. “Regardless of whatever uniqueness or individuality that you bring, it’s really critical that we have a community where everybody feels like they can belong here, even if they don’t see themselves.”
Carter said she hopes that those in attendance feel inspired to act after hearing her message.
“Our objective is to have an authentic dialogue and conversation about whether or not the dream has been realized, and if not, what are some of the things that we collectively need to do to further the dream in our personal lives, in our families, in our homes and in our communities,” Carter said. “I hope that people are inspired to act and to go do something different.”
In addition to Carter’s speech, local community foundations will also award several local high school seniors with MLK Regional Scholarship awards during the program. As a “thank you” to the recipients, the students and their parents are invited to attend a dinner before the program.
“(The recipients) are recognized for how they keep the dream alive in their community or in their schools,” said Mamie Thorns, SVSU’s Chief Diversity Officer and Special Assistant to the President for Diversity Programs.
Three community members will also receive the MLK Drum Major Award at the event. These recipients are recognized for furthering King’s dream through service in the Saginaw, Bay City and Midland communities.
This year’s program will feature a performance by the Central Michigan University gospel choir and a recitation of a section of King’s speech “The Burning Truth in the South” by the MLK Regional Scholarship recipients. The public is invited to attend a reception following the program.
This year’s MLK Regional Celebration is sponsored by 36 companies and organizations, including The Dow Chemical Company, Delta College and Nexteer Automotive.
Past keynote speakers include former Attorney General Eric Holder, Stedman Graham and Saginaw County District Judge Terry Clark.
According to Thorns, the event will average anywhere between 600 and 1,200 people.
Thorns hopes that program attendees will learn more about how they can share King’s dream with others through Carter’s speech.
“It’s one thing for me to have the dream, but I have to share it with everybody around me so that we can keep it alive,” Thorns said. “We’re living in some difficult times, and the dream is a good reminder of where we’ve come from, where we are now and that we still have a long way to go. We can do it, but we have to work together.”