Work needed to patch holes in 'safety nets of Americans' dreams'
Detroit and other urban communities will find the inspiration for renewal of their cities in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings, the University's MLK Symposium keynote speaker said Jan. 17.
"As we try to understand the modern interpretation of Dr. King's words, we realize there is work to be donethere are holes in the safety nets of Americans' dreams," said Henry Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration.
Cisneros spoke at Hill Auditorium as the MLK Memorial Lecturer, part of the University's 18th annual symposium to honor the slain civil rights leader.
A quote from King"But we have not learned the simple art of living together"was the theme of the symposium. According to Cisneros, this "simple art" must begin with improvements to the school systems in Detroit and other cities.
"There is no way a person can aspire to a middle-class future in America without a college education," he said. "We will not begin to rebuild our cities without rebuilding our schools."
He cited housing as being a segregating factor in today's urban areas. According to Cisneros, 74 percent of white Americans are homeowners, compared to 48 percent of Blacks and 47 percent of Hispanics.
"There is a gap in the opportunity for people to say, 'I control my destiny. I can provide for my family,'" he said.
Cisneros, chairman of American CityVista and City View, discussed plans to increase housing development in the city of Detroit during the next several years. He also stressed the importance of bringing minority entrepreneurs to the city.
"We need to understand our towns. We need to understand that they are fundamentally economic entities," he said. "We need to make them places where entrepreneurs and where minority entrepreneurs can prosper."
He also noted the advancement of social equality America has made since the time of King, and credited his teachings.
"As Dr. King opened the doors of opportunity for African Americans; in fact, as he predicted, he opened the doors for everyone," he said.
Cisneros encouraged Americans to seek King's teachings from the 1950s and 60s as a means of understanding and solving problems that still exist today, such as segregation through urban decay, inadequate education and homelessness.
"It's our job to interpret his basic themes and values in a modern context, and that's a difficult thing to do," Cisneros said. "The best moment for America is yet to come. Once we unleash the potential and opportunity for every American, then that will be our greatest moment."
The 2005 MLK Symposium Planning Committee sponsored the lecture.