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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Uncovering Truth: An Introduction of Professor Michael Eric Dyson

Gaston Hall
Georgetown University
October 1, 2008

Thank you Andy…

And good evening. It is my great pleasure to welcome you here, to engage with a distinguished member of the Georgetown community.

Gaston Hall has witnessed some of the most thoughtful—and thought provoking—discussions held on our campus…and has been host to some of our most celebrated speakers—tonight is no exception. We have the privilege of hearing from one of our nation’s leading public intellectuals…a great educator…writer… orator… and Baptist minister…

…This is someone who Cornel West has called the academy’s “most talented rhetorical acrobat”…and one of America’s “most courageous and engaged intellectuals…”

…Someone who the Washington Post says, “flows freely from the profound to the profane” …and “…from popular culture to classical literature.”

…This is a person who has reached broadly throughout our culture—engaging artists and intellectuals from rapper Nas to linguist Noam Chomsky…

University Professor Michael Eric Dyson has impacted so very many lives, so very many minds… And I believe he will challenge us tonight… and ask us to look deeply at often unexamined cultural assumptions…

The title of Professor Dyson’s talk is “No Dreams Deferred?: Black Aspirations from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Jay-Z.” We, of course, hear the echo of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in this title. And we hear the question, what has become of this dream?

Professor Dyson examines this question in his latest book, April 4, 1968: How Dr. Martin Luther King's Death Changed America. April 4, 1968 is of course the date that Dr. King was assassinated. In his book, Dr. Dyson looks at this fateful day, and uses it as a springboard to discuss what has happened to America, particularly black America, in the forty years since Dr. King first challenged our society to be more equal, more just.

One of the qualities that has always impressed me about Professor Dyson’s work is his pursuit of truth. His 16 books—and various other commentaries—all seek truth—and as we all know, the pursuit of truth is the defining characteristic of a university. Whether examining the life of Dr. King… the art of Marvin Gaye and Tupac Shakur… the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina… or the socio-economic and racial issues affecting our society… Professor Dyson brings us along in the unflinching quest to uncover truth and to speak it—especially to power.

Tonight’s talk and question-and-answer session will, I’m sure, be no exception. We have the chance to take a journey through the last four decades of African American life and look at the dreams and aspirations that have fueled it. Some inspiring truths will undoubtedly be revealed…as will some uncomfortable ones…

But in the tradition of our university… in the example of Professor Dyson… and in the spirit of Dr. King, engagement of these truths is the key to a richer life, a better society, and ultimately, the full and complete realization of the dream.

So, it is my great pleasure to now introduce to you, tonight’s featured speaker, University Professor Michael Eric Dyson…

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