Dear Champlain community,

As we honor the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. next week, I know I am not alone in trying to reconcile the soaring optimism of Dr. King’s dream with the disturbing events and images of the last weeks and ongoing and escalating racial injustices in our country. As the weeks unfold, please continue to look out for yourselves and each other, and endeavor to be vigilant and safe.

Even in his own brilliant and poetic articulation of his dream, Dr. King acknowledged the gap between his dream and reality. In his famous speech, Dr. King said, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.” Sadly, we are still at the starting line and this gap seems even wider today—nearly 60 years later. 

There is power in dreaming, but how do we convert dreams into reality? I believe it starts with building bridges. Building bridges is important and difficult work—bridges between those who agree with us and those who don’t, between our ideas and our actions, between our past and a promising future. Building a bridge is one of the most meaningful, impactful skills that we can cultivate, whether in our personal or professional lives, whether here on campus or in our broader community or beyond. As political activist, academic, and author Angela Davis said: “Walls turned sideways are bridges.” Especially in this pandemic, when our obstacles now include distances, masks, and fear, building bridges is more critical than ever.

Since we are not all together on campus, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I encourage you to build bridges with our broader community through learning. Although many of you are on winter break through next week, we recommend Champlain community members take advantage of the excellent programming being offered in the Burlington community. Events include a panel and discussion hosted by the City of Burlington on reparations, which will be a significant area of focus for the City in the months ahead. The schedule also features events hosted by Dartmouth College, UVM, and the Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center. Most of these events are virtual, although some tickets are required. After some of these events, Champlain staff will also be hosting post-event discussions. You can find a full list of events on The View.

As MLK Day is also a day of service, the United Way of Northwestern Vermont has a list of suggested options for volunteering safely through acts of kindness or virtual, at-home, or socially distant activities:

  • Create cards for patients recovering from COVID-19
  • Letter writing to seniors in nursing homes
  • Knitting blankets, hats, or mittens for the homeless
  • Contactless food or warm coat donations to a nonprofit
  • Individual neighborhood clean-up or “snow angel” shoveling

We are planning a robust schedule of programming during Black History Month in February. You will hear more later this month. If you would like to be involved in this planning, contact Liza Mazzariello at I look forward to these opportunities for community discussion and reflection. 


Benjamin Ola. Akande, Ph.D.
President, Champlain College