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NEW YORK, June 1, 2020…In August of 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the sermon at the annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference, entitled, Where Do We Go From Here?, during a time of tremendous upheaval in America marked by protests around the country against an unpopular war in Viet Nam and calls for racial and social justice. He spoke frankly and passionately about inequity, racism, injustice and poverty; he also spoke about the approach to addressing America’s issues, saying, “I’m concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence…Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that. And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems.”
We find ourselves now facing an eerily similar scenario with violent protests across much of America, just as we are emerging from the impacts of a global pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis it triggered. Initially sparked by the collective outrage over police brutality, the peaceful protests guaranteed by our constitution have now devolved into lawless mob violence, looting and destruction, risking a shift away from the conversation about the very injustices that prompted the initial protests. We have serious issues to resolve, and it will take the reasoned and determined efforts of all Americans, especially the leaders of government, business and mission-driven organizations alike, to find the lasting solutions that can heal the nation’s wounds. We must restore faith in our institutions, our government and our leaders. We must ensure that opportunity will be equally available and that justice will be equally applied. And, above all, we must restore the belief, and indeed ensure the probability, that the American dream is attainable for all.
More than 100 years ago, against a backdrop of labor strikes and boycotts, horrific industrial accidents and the brutal “war to end all wars” raging in Europe, The Conference Board was formed to help business do well in order to better serve society. That’s been our guiding mission since the beginning: To present research-based insights for shaping a world that could be—from improved working conditions to compulsory health insurance to expanding opportunity for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. Today, we stand with leaders across the nation who condemn injustice and inequity as well as violent chaos. We invite them to join us in the important work of solving America’s systemic and entrenched challenges. We must now marry our words with the actions that will result in lasting change, ensuring that America indeed remains the “last best hope of earth.”