Since assuming the presidency of Morehouse three years ago, I have been working to advance my vision that the college will provide intellectual and moral leadership for a 21st century global renaissance of character, civility and community. This means that not only will we work to develop our own students as Renaissance men with a social conscience who are committed to the causes of equality, justice and peace, but also seek to guide and inspire others to serve the common good in their communities and throughout the globe.
My fellow presidential colleagues of the 19 other public and private colleges and universities that comprise the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education have similarly compelling visions for their institutions. This commencement season, we collectively will confer undergraduate and graduate degrees on thousands of young men and women whose intellect and energy will be applied to resolving a burgeoning list of global challenges that includes war, nuclear proliferation, climate change, pandemic disease, economic instability and, yes, the transformation of capitalism.
By all measures, the past few years have been tough for leadership and for leaders. As a result of the many scandals and failures of those in charge, our confidence in leadership is at an all-time low. Despite this erosion of trust, however, the fact remains that leadership still matters. We still need people who will stand up, point us in a new direction, and take the first steps toward getting us there.
True, our greatest problems will require more than an abundant supply of smart, ambitious people. Some might even argue that it is just such people who helped turn our problems into major crises in the first place. That is why, going forward, we will need and must demand leaders who are guided by vision, leaders who are accountable, humble, and ethical. We will need and must demand leaders who are socially conscious.
Dr. King described this brand of leaders as “a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists.” I am convinced that our best hope of finding them will be to look among the ranks of the graduates of our many fine colleges and universities. This is higher education’s contribution to a better world.
Robert Michael Franklin Jr. is president of Morehouse College.