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Legacy of dr. Martin Luther King jr.

The legacy of dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Listen to the empowering words of Dr Martin Luther King jr. visiting the VU student association 21 October 1965 and read the transcript.

See also 'Geheugen van de VU'.

Round Table We Shall Overcome; the power of Mahalia Jackson and Martin Luther King jr.,

Round Table event in Museum Catherijneconvent, Gospel Exhibition, 29 October 2022. See report of this event, with thanks for the written report by the speakers Harky Klinefelter and Jan van Butselaar, and Museum conservator/curator Rianneke van der Houwen.

Round Table We Shall Overcome; the power of Mahalia Jackson and Martin Luther King jr.pdf


Mirjam van Praag shared her impressive Commencement speech ‘Keep Moving Forward’ with secondary school students to celebrate their graduation in the SERVUS Masterclass “I Have a Dream’ 14 December 2020. The students participated in VU Pre-University College  and successfully completed assignments on themes such as gender stereotypes, black lives matter, corona and racism, and police violence in the USA.  Mirjam van Praag concluded her speech: “....Juist nu is sociaal ondernemend gedrag van eminent belang voor vrijwel iedereen. Wij zijn er trots op en blij met ónze medewerkers en studenten in deze bijzondere tijd. Moedig voorwaarts! Of, in Martin Luther King’s woorden: “You Have to Keep Moving Forward.”

See complete version of her commencement speech enclosed


This is the title of Rev. Harcourt Klinefelter’s presentation in our SERVUS Masterclass ‘I Have a Dream’  for secondary school students of VU Pre-University College, 17 November 2020.  Harcourt “ Harky”  joined the Selma to Montgomery March (see his Selma eye witness photo) in 1965, to become the press officer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Harky recorded King’s sermons and historic speeches for broadcasting across the USA. King was his Mentor. For more than fifty years he has pursued King’s dream. Being human rights activist, he facilitates courses in conflict resolution. What a courageous life of a peace apostle.


VUvereniging, the VU Association founded in 1879, awarded SERVUS a 2-years project ‘We Shall Overcome’. The project aims to strengthen the VU historical identity through 4 valorization actions. The actions originate and build on the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King jr. On October 20th 1965 MLK received an honorary doctorate degree for his courageous non-violent fight for social justice and civil rights. The first  ‘We Shall Overcome’ action involves interviews with VU alumni who have met with dr. Martin Luther King jr. at VU in 1965. These interviews come on top of an earlier MLK interview series with VU Alumni. Subsequently, a MLK Masterclass will be organized for VU researchers and lecturers. The purpose of this Masterclass is to implement MLK's legacy in current research and educational curricula to serve 21st C generations to come. Research and educational issues such as cultural diversity, underprivileged societal groups e.g. newcomers, poor and elderly people, freedom of speech, and bullying in the (online) workplace will be aligned with MLK legacy.  During an international symposium the major project findings will be highlighted. Web visibility will support knowledge sharing and sustainability of project findings. We are grateful for this generous empowerment of SERVUS by VUvereniging.

See a first impression of the project actions:

Impressies We Shall Overcome actions 2020-2022 SERVUS website.pdf


Over the last few years SERVUS interviewed in total 7 VU alumni. During Dr. Martin Luther King jr.  VU visit in 1965 these alumni attended the ceremony with MLK 20 October 1965 and/or 21 October 1965. In the MLK interviews the alumni tell their personal story about meeting MLK, and also elaborate on their memories of being VU student in the 1960s. See their personal stories: 

Thursday 28th November 2019 a few VU alumni interviewees attended the Martin Luther King Lecture ‘Game-Changers’. Beforehand, SERVUS invited the alumni for a joint dinner, see picture. 


What a special evening, the 2019 Martin Luther King Lecture ‘ Game-Changers’ at the VU with inspirational speakers such as European parliamentarian Samira Rafaela, and poet Babs Franklin Gons. Delighted to experience how young game-changers take action to contribute in their own unique way to society.  MLK was a game-changer too in his non-violent struggle for social justice. It was amazing to meet again with SERVUS relations Kathleen Ferrier and Sebastiaan van der Zwaan. Thank you for this wonderful evening. Click here for more information about the lecture.


One of the SERVUS initiatives this academic year is the Masterclass ‘I have a dream’ for secondary school students. The SERVUS Masterclass is part of the VU Pre-University College, a consortium of 23 secondary schools in the greater Amsterdam region.  

This Masterclass curriculum is designed for secondary school students in their final school year (4 and 5 VWO). Students acquire knowledge and experience in different forms of visionary leadership.  Issues such as cross cultural human rights and social justice are being addressed. The curriculum will nurture students’ personal leadership skills and moral compass, to finally apply knowledge in teamwork and field research. The theme ‘I have a dream’ originated from VU history and its corporate culture. The Masterclass is named after Dr. Martin Luther King jr. Because, King received an honorary doctorate degree at the VU in Amsterdam on 20 October 1965 for his courageous non-violent fight for racial equality and civil rights.

Which leaders make a difference, and inspire people to positive change? In this Masterclass, students explore how successful leaders are committed to both their organization and the sustainable society at large. Michelle Obama is such a contemporary role model. She launched the campaign Let’s Move: a campaign against childhood obesity in the USA. With this initiative Michelle Obama initiated measures to change the food industry (e.g. listing the amount of calories on the packages of food and drinks) and to encourage providing healthier school meals. How can a leader give hope, motivate people, and nurture a sense of belonging to community? What do you do in a crisis situation, what is the role of empathy and respect, and how to reconcile dilemmas? What does that imply for the leader him/herself? In this Masterclass secondary school students examine these issues in dialogue with VU scientists and practitioners. Students discover their own power as a leader, their moral compass, and experience the inspiration of visionary leaders such as Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela, Michelle Obama and Martin Luther King. Leadership exercises, a speech lab and workshops bring the learning to life. 

Various societal partners are loyal supporters of this Masterclass, such as:

  • Martin Luther King Lecture Foundation, in partnership with:
  • Justice and Peace Netherlands, committed to a just and sustainable world. Justice and Peace supports human rights defenders who work at the local level worldwide, and are dedicated to an equitable treatment and protection of refugees
  • Nieuwwij, for a better world, connecting cultural and religious differences
  • De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, Autumn 2017 exhibition on visionary leadership
  • THTConsulting, experts in cross cultural awareness and dilemma reconciliation

More information, please contact us.