Thinking About Martin Luther King Jr. Globally

Jackie Dowling, Maroon-News Staff

On Tuesday, February 10, the Arthur W. and Anne Hale Johnson Religions and Ethics in America Lecture Series hosted Dr. Lewis Baldwin to speak on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Baldwin’s lecture, “Surviving in the Great World House: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of an Ethical Ideal,” took place in Love Auditorium in Olin Hall.

Baldwin currently teaches at Vanderbilt University as a Professor of Religious Studies. He holds a B.A. in History from Talladega College (1971), received his M.A. and M.Div. from the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and obtained his Ph.D. in American Christianity from Northwestern University (1980). 

Baldwin has taught at many universities, including Colgate University and has published several articles and books throughout his career, many of which have earned notable awards.

The focus of the lecture was how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. established his global presence and reach through his idea of a “World House.” Baldwin began by discussing the contemporary image that is associated with King. As a nation, Baldwin believes, we take part in the annual ritual of remembering King on a single day in January. We remember his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but in order to truly understand King’s global impact, Baldwin thinks this type of periodic remembrance is inadequate.

“King understood the interrelated structure of all reality. He refused to separate the civil rights movement from the global struggle for freedom,” Baldwin said.

This was the basic definition of King’s “World House” ideology. King understood the world as a single neighborhood and tried to help others understand the interrelated structure of all reality. 

Baldwin described King’s “World House” as the idea that every aspect of our daily lives is provided for us by others around the world, from the type of toothpaste we use to brush our teeth to the clothes we put on our backs. 

After comprehending this notion, King was able to effectively collaborate with other world leaders in the fight against racism.

Baldwin then opened this lecture to discuss the idea of globalization more broadly.

While he acknowledged that the modern term “globalization” most often has an economic connotation, he believes it is possible to draw on King’s actions and global thinking to form a constructive critique on global trends of race and religious tolerance and to see what effect they have on King’s idea of the “World House.”

“If we keep this idea of a ‘world house’ in mind, living with compassion and empathy – for all people, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, etc. – will become a lot easier,” Student Government President senior Sarah Rende said.

Baldwin will continue to draw on Dr. Martin Luther King’s globalization ideologies as he continues his research and publication of related works.