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This second-place essay was written by junior Jack Caporuscio for the MLK Oratorical Contest. Jack is Allenton from and is double majoring in biology and writing. In addition, he is a resident adviser in Shipherd Hall and a member of the Gruen Chemistry Society and Sigma Zeta National Science and Mathematics Honor Society.

Social justice, the idea that the relationship between an individual and society is completely fair. The assumption that wealth is distributed evenly, and that the differences between us all do not affect the justice we receive from society. Unfortunately, these ideas and assumptions are untrue in our modern society. As an increasingly aware college student, I have noticed that generally, as a society, we let superficial differences between humanity – such as race and gender – get in the way of truly fulfilling the beautiful vision that is social justice.

This is not a new issue or story, as this battle has been fought long before my time. From the emancipation of the slaves post-Civil War, to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, many valiant efforts have been made to level the playing field for everyone. I have the optimistic belief that the majority of reasonable people want every person in our nation to be afforded the same opportunities, this is indisputable. But, it is those who hate for no discernible reason but to purely hate – and those who discriminate because of a skin pigment that differs from their own – or even a body part that is different from their own, that halt this progression towards social justice we have all fought for. Evils in this world such as racism, and the wage gap of women in the workplace, are still very much alive to this day. Everyday ignorance, such as microagressions that systematically tear down at an individual’s very soul and removes the individuality that makes them human. These sustained evils of society cannot be tolerated any longer. We must not take the attitude of, “But I am just one person, how can I change anything?” This is a fallacy born from people who hate others, and those who accept the casual bigotry of this world, want us to believe. Every single one of us can affect some level of change.

This change needs to start at Olivet College. If we as a student body are united in the fight against bigotry and racism, than this united effort will have a ripple effect to the surrounding communities. That ripple in the water will motivate other leaders in our surrounding communities to start changing for the better as well. With this broader outlook on change, we as a student body and faculty at Olivet College can create change for the better in this world, as we many times already have done.

So, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s be reminded of why we celebrate this day in the first place. Martin Luther King Jr. was just one man. One man who decided to make it his mission to spread his singular voice through a ripple effect to those around him who knew the path laid out for them needed to be changed. They let no excuses get in their way, and were never afraid to say what needed to be said. We as a college community need to use this as motivation. If we are properly motivated, than I am certain we can advance the battle many steps forward to reach the true definition of social justice.

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