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‘The Things That Matter’

In keynote address honoring MLK scholarship candidates, Dean Rougeau makes the struggle for civil rights personal.

Awards at BC Law School on Commencement Eve. 

Four-year-old Vincent Rougeau was too young to remember standing beside other preschoolers in Atlanta as Martin Luther King’s funeral cortege passed by. But his mother certainly wasn’t. And a recent conversation between the boy who grew up to become the dean of Boston College Law School and his mom about the “beauty and power” of that moment was the springboard that Rougeau used on February 19 in his keynote address at the University’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet.

Thanks to the efforts of his parents in the 1960’s, and generations before them, Rougeau said he was spared the hurtful memory of legal segregation growing up, and has instead been the beneficiary of “some remarkable racial progress.”

Yet, Rougeau observed, the story around change is also complicated. “The United States is still in many ways a prisoner of its racist history, a history that has not been adequately acknowledged and confronted, and which continues to compromise the full membership and participation of blacks in American society.”

In his address, Rougeau found hope in the students being honored at the banquet not only because of their considerable accomplishments thus far, but also for their clear potential to make a difference going forward.

“I am confident that these young people we celebrate tonight will continue to work to move this nation toward the things that matter and away from the things that don’t. Then, and only then, will we fully realize the dream Martin Luther King had for all of us,” he said.

Read Rougeau’s full speech here.