Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (Ret.) of Georgia spoke at the annual Emory University Community Service Awards. PHOTO: Moses Robinson

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Martin Luther King Jr.

Emory faculty, staff and students joined members of the Atlanta community last Thursday for a tradition that, while in its 20th year, traces its inspiration decades in the past.

To help keep the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive Emory’s Goizueta Business School and Rollins School of Public Health co-sponsor an annual community service awards program which highlights the efforts of individuals and organizations making the city better and embodying the ideals of King and his quest for Civil Rights.

“2011 provided several markers for this journey toward longterm social, economic and political justice,” said Peter Roberts, an associate professor of organization and management and co-chair of the awards committee. Roberts pointed to protests against the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, political protests in the Middle East and the Occupy Wall Street movement as examples.

Dean of Goizueta Business School Larry Benveniste said community leaders will continue to be at the front line for creating lasting change, noting government alone can’t provide all the answers.

“It’s going to be about communities,” he said. “It’s always been about communities.”

2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award Winners
“Voices for Social, Economic and Political Justice”

Speaking in the Claudia Nance Rollins Building, keynote speaker Leah Ward Sears, retired chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, said the world can not judge people based on skin color or other preconceived notions.

“Sadly, all to often, people only look at the outward appearance of others to make important judgements about them,” she said. “Many of us find it easy to take shortcuts up the ladder of understanding even if it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”