Morris Dees, Founder of Southern Poverty Law Center, was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Symposium, held Oct. 25-27. His Scholar's Convocation speech was titled "With Justice for All."
The symposium and awards ceremony honors the winners of the Grinnell Prize and allows them to share their knowledge about innovative social justice programs. Prize recipients deliver public lectures regarding their experiences and perspectives in shaping innovative programs that effect positive social change.
You can hear the presentations by and learn more about the 2011 winners:
- Boris Bulayev, co-founder and executive director, and
- Eric W. Glustrom, co-founder and president of Educate! (shared award);
- James Kofi Annan, founder and president of Challenging Heights; and
- Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, founding executive director emeritus of Encounter.
Transcript of The Highlights Video
>> SARAH PURCELL: The Southern Poverty Law Center continues its fight for civil rights and justice in the United States, not only working on issues of racial equality and rights but spreading into many other areas of civil rights litigation and advocacy, including immigrant rights, GLBTQ issues, children’s rights and really any challenge any challenge to civil rights and equality.
>> MORRIS DEES: Rosa Parks, who lived not far from my grandmother's house, refused to give up her seat on the bus and started America's civil rights movement. I like to think it's the last battle in the American Revolution that gave so many people rights they didn't have, but it took another man to lead that social action movement, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. A man who laid claim to a destiny that his people had been denied so long. He was a person who had to face many of his contemporaries—like you will if you come up with new, innovative ideas—that had little vision. He had to face politicians and policy makers with no backbone.
I feel confident that you people here—with the reputation of this school for social action—and people who come out of here and others like you all across this country will not be satisfied until justice truly rolls down like waters.
Remember, remember, that equal rights begin close to home. That’s where people seek equal justice. In our schools, in our communities, our workplaces. And unless people find equal rights and equal treatment in these places, we’ll look as a nation in vain for progress in a larger world. But I have confidence that you will live up to the promises in our constitution. The promises that were made whole by Dr. Martin Luther King and others in America’s civil rights movement. That you truly will not be satisfied until you do your part.
Grinnell is truly a college, and a real university in the real sense of the word. And one of the most important things a young person can do is get a liberal arts education. Doesn’t mean they have to be necessarily liberal, but if you get a liberal arts education, you get history and perspective. You get art, literature, science, math, all the subjects that go to making a whole human being. And it’s hard to go through that without being progressive in my opinion.
Well I think giving awards to young entrepreneurs of social justice is important. Not only does it help them to use the money for their fledgling projects, but it also sets the example for others. And today we need as many new ideas as we can to deal with some of the really serious issues in social justice in the United States as well as in the world.
I’m glad to know that they’re there, because when I’m gone and people my age aren’t here and this country goes through major transitions over the next 30, 40, 50 years, we’re in good hands. There are a lot of young people out there that have good democratic values and are going to make the system work.