In an effort to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. for the 25th year in a row, UVU hosted keynote speaker President Astrid Tuminez, followed by a panel discussion with other university leaders, on Wednesday, Jan. 16 in the Ragan Theatre. This year’s commemoration event was centered around a question inspired by King: “What are we doing for others?”

Kira Smalls, president of the Black Student Union (BSU) at UVU, kicked off the event. After the opening remarks, Bri Ray, a local singer/songwriter and former American Idol contestant, and her accompanist performed an original musical piece. 

Following the duo’s performance, Smalls went on to introduce this year’s keynote speaker; Tuminez. Smalls spoke of how Tuminez had “led a rich career in business, philanthropy and academia”, and the pride within the university for having her as UVU’s first female president.

“Raised in the slums of the Philippines, Tuminez rose to become a world leader in the fields of technology and political science,” said Smalls. “President Tuminez has already become a powerhouse here at UVU and we are so grateful to be able to hear from her today.”

Tuminez commenced her speech by asking the audience to reflect upon the ways that they try to help better the world. She went on to talk about political movements throughout the years across the world devoted to diminishing injustice, and the significant impact each one had.

“I think we are so lucky. We stand on the shoulders of giants who have come before us,” said Tuminez. “Whether we are fighting for less poverty or equal rights, for all types of people, we honor and thank those people, like Martin Luther King Jr., who fought those fights for us.”

She also emphasized the importance of and the need for telling stories in today’s world.

“We need to tell more stories. There are stories we should be telling today and tomorrow, as we continue to have a better dialogue about how to promote equal rights and social justice,” said Tuminez. “We need to enhance our efforts. We need to tell more stories. We need to tell more truths. We need to do more.”

After the president spoke, a panel discussion was held to answer any questions audience members had. The panel was mediated by UVU’s Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Belinda ‘Otukolo Saltiban.

Students asked questions about how to be a part of inclusion efforts and conversations without being divisive, while others inquired of future plans UVU has for improvement socially and academically. 

The event concluded with one last musical performance of another original piece by Ray and her accompanist. 

Blanca De La Cruz

Photographer, @delacruzblanca on Instagram