Dr. Neal Lester reflects on being honored with the 2022 ASU MLK Faculty Servant-Leadership Award

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Longtime ASU Humanities professor, Dr. Neal Lester was honored with the ASU Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Servant-Leadership Award last year. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he joined Ted to reflect on this honor.

“As the inaugural recipient, it was… both satisfying but also challenging because, to live up to that kind of iconic imagery, and what that life and legacy stood for, was quite humbling,” Lester said.

He says that the award is a continual reminder that he “has work to do even though I have accomplished some things that people think is important.” Dr. King was focused on humanity, justice, equity, and equality.

Lester asserts that we must recognize the differences in humanity. He says that many people do not acknowledge the differences and adopt a “we-are-the-world” viewpoint. He believes this worldview to be common because it is easy.

“It’s vanilla, and it’s easy to digest when we don’t have to look at difference,” Lester said. “In order to not see difference, we have to pretend that, because most of use do see difference… it’s what we attach to difference that becomes problematic.”

In the beginning Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, he acknowledged differences including skin color and socio-economic status. In his speech “The Other America,” Dr. King talked about differences in privilege and opportunity.

Lester believes that Dr. King’s legacy had intersectional impacts on all parts of humanity including, religion, politics and civil rights.

“If we consider that holistically, I think we get really what Dr. King’s legacy and work were all about, which about is oneness of humanity,” said Lester.

ASU Humanities Professor Neal Lester

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