The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Dr. Damon A. Williams gives his second MLK celebration keynote lecture

Annalisa Madonia
Dr. Damon A. Williams returns to UVM as a keynote speaker in an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Ira Allen Chapel Jan 25.

Dr. Damon A. Williams returned to UVM to give the University’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration’s keynote lecture on Jan. 25 at Ira Allen Chapel.

Williams spoke at UVM in 2022 for the same celebration with a lecture titled “Looking Back, and Looking Ahead: Manifesting the Dream of Inclusive Excellence.”

He was hired when the original speaker, Rev. Nelson Johnson, was no longer able to give the lecture due to unforeseen circumstances, according to promotion of the lecture.

The title of Williams’s lecture was “Creating a Beloved Community,” a theme based on the work of King that encompasses the power of dialogue, humility, empathy and leadership in manifesting equitable communities. 

The theme of “summiting” opened Williams’s lecture as a reference to Dr. King’s “proverbial mountaintop.” 

“To find a pathway to what is and what could be as we manifest this community,” Williams said. 

Williams often spoke of national or university level diversity, equity and inclusion strategies in which he encouraged leadership to employ interdisciplinary and interpersonal approaches. 

He is currently chief catalyst for the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation and a senior scholar and innovation fellow at the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to UVM’s profile on Williams.

Courage in leadership is necessary in order to not just do what is on the agenda of an entity like a university, but to engage in what is possible by being an ally to those different from oneself, he said. 

“Ask not just what was, but what could be,” he said.

Williams employed many quotes from King in his presentation and connected them with the DEI issues facing the United States today.

Williams said conversations on the DEI, both in personal and in leadership spheres, have greatly increased since 2021. He spoke with an urgency of combating the anti-DEI movement, which he saw as an “onslaught against Dr. King’s work on the beloved community,” he said. 

Roxy Bombardier, in-person attendee and UVM employee, tries to attend all of the MLK celebration lectures and heard Williams speak in 2022. This lecture held a greater sense of urgency to Bombardier due to recent legislation and actions against marginalized groups, she said.

Senior Emily Kline asked Williams a question about her passion for anti-racism at the end of the lecture. 

“That passion for me often turns into a lot of anger. How can you cultivate that kind of forgiveness and love as a way to overpower that anger that I hold with me and that a lot of us hold?” she said.

Williams said to “use faith” to create a beloved community and to stay rooted in self-reflection.



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About the Contributors
Sophia Balunek
Sophia Balunek, Editor-in-chief
(She/her) Sophia Balunek is a junior majoring in Geography with a minor in Wildlife Biology. She joined the Cynic her first-year as a staff photographer, then became Photo Editor her sophomore year, and is now stepping up to Editor-in-chief. Outside of the Cynic, she has produced independent photography projects the past two summers. One was a multimedia project with Platte Basin Timelapse called Momentary Encounters about people’s relationships to birds in Lincoln, Nebraska, in which she received the Environmental Program’s Ian Worley Award. In the other, she documented the work of an international charitable foundation in Kenya. In her free time, Sophia enjoys birding, photography and reading. Emil [email protected] to get in contact with Sophia.
Annalisa Madonia
Annalisa Madonia, Co-Photo Editor
(She/her)  Annalisa Madonia is a sophomore majoring in public communication with minors in food systems, applied design and nutrition and food sciences. She joined the Cynic as a staff photographer before taking on the role of photo editor. In her free time, she loves to combine her passion for baking and photography with food photography. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Annalisa.