Seattle Foundation Blog

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

Martin Luther King Jr. Day allows us all, as individuals and organizations, to reflect on how we live out the values that our nation honors today.


January 16, 2017

By Tony Mestres, President & CEO

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” – Martin Luther King  Jr.

Today and every day, these powerful words inspire Seattle Foundation in our mission to create a stronger, more vibrant community for all.  They motivate our team to innovate and invest in creating greater equity and opportunity in our region.  They drive partnerships with our principled philanthropists and impactful nonprofit leaders who share Dr. King’s vision to make justice a reality for all of our residents, especially the most marginalized. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day allows us all, as individuals and organizations, to reflect on how we live out the values that our nation honors today.  For Seattle Foundation, we feel humble authenticity to that reflection for here in our region, where you live, how much you make, and the color of your skin are major predictors of your life experience and your chances of living well and thriving. And while average measures of quality of life, social, and health factors are among the highest in the country, Greater Seattle experiences some of the greatest inequities among all large U.S. metropolitan areas. The values of equity and opportunity are central principles guiding Seattle Foundation’s mission. We founded the Center for Community Partnerships to focus on increasing racial and economic equity. Amongst the Center’s efforts are: 

  • Communities of Opportunity, a partnership with King County, aims to improve health, social, racial, and economic outcomes by investing in community, policy and systems change. 

  • Neighbor To Neighbor supports grassroots efforts that increase engagement, power and influence of community members affected by poverty and racial disparities. 

  • The Vibrant Democracy Initiative works to strengthen the voice and participation of underrepresented communities to allow for more equitable systems change.

Now, more than ever, we recommit ourselves to this critical work.  These efforts are strongly aligned with the values we celebrate today in Dr. King’s honor, but we also acknowledge their reach is small in scope relative to the growing opportunity gap that exists in every facet of American life.  Most profound is the achievement gap in education, which cuts short the pathway to the American Dream for millions of children. In Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” survey of each state’s public-education system, Washington ranked second to last when it came to narrowing the gap in performance between low-income students and their wealthier classmates. We also know that of the top 200 schools districts nationally, Seattle has the fifth-biggest gap in achievement between black and white students. Reflecting on Dr. King’s legacy and principles today is a reminder of why working to address such inequities in our community is so vital and urgent. 

There is so much more we can do together, as a community, to end human suffering and create the hope and opportunity rooted in Dr. King’s dream.  Today, Seattle Foundation honors the philanthropists and community partners investing their time, intellect and wealth in making justice a reality for all.  We call on all to reflect on and recommit ourselves to the inarguable principles that Dr. King gave his life for.

“The time is always right to do what’s right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr.

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