MLK Week to feature keynote by Olympian Tommie Smith

· 3 min read

MLK Week to feature keynote by Olympian Tommie Smith

Tommie Smith
Tommie Smith, historic Olympic gold-medalist

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s MLK Week celebration will feature a keynote address by Olympic gold medalist and civil rights icon Tommie Smith.

The university will honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a series of events Jan. 23-28. The week, which carries the theme “The fierce urgency of now,” will highlight the importance of social and racial advocacy, education and engagement. The celebration will offer events for students, faculty, staff and the Lincoln community.

Smith will speak during the MLK Commemorative Celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Nebraska Union’s Centennial Room. Registration is required by Jan. 20 here. The event is $25 per individual or $150 for a table of six. Husker students will be admitted free, though registration is required. The 2022 Chancellor’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards will be presented during the commemoration.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Smith won the 200-meter sprint final with a world record time of 19.83 seconds. As the national anthem played, he and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their fists to protest racism and injustice against Black people in the United States. The symbolic moment propelled Smith into the spotlight as a human rights advocate. Smith and Carlos accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for the salute at the 2008 ESPY Awards. In 2018, Smith received the Dresden Peace Prize.

“This year we reflected on the impact of historical moments and its connection to our current socio-political climate and national conversations,” said Nkenge Friday, senior assistant vice chancellor for strategic initiatives at Nebraska and chair of the MLK Week Committee. “We wanted to offer a speaker who has reflected the ideals of human rights, activism and its connection to a platform that allows for visibility and collective impact.

“In addition, we have partnered with members of the campus and community to deliver opportunities that expand conversation, and community engagement and service, all in support of justice and equity.”

Other MLK Week events include:

  • Jan. 23-27: Week of service, more information here

  • Jan. 24: Late Night Dish It Up: Divine Nine Edition, hosted by the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services, 6 p.m., Regency Suite, Nebraska Union

  • Jan. 27: Workshop facilitated by the Center for Transformative Teaching, “Inclusive Teaching Strategies that Foster an Anti-Racist Classroom,” noon to 1 p.m., Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center

  • Jan. 28: MLK Banquet, hosted by the Afrikan Peoples Union and University Program Council, featuring a keynote address by Cheryl Brown Henderson, 6 p.m., Great Plains Room, Nebraska East Union, registration required

For more information on MLK Week at Nebraska, click here or email

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