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Freedom School Explores What Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr., Meant by Freedom

By Kate McAvey, ‘11

Villanova University hosted a series of lectures and discussions on Thursday, Jan., 24, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, which was celebrated nationally on Monday, Jan. 21.

The many lectures and discussions focused on multiple topics, all of which revolved around the common theme of freedom. The lecture, “What Did Martin Luther King, Jr., Mean by Freedom,?” was led by Mattei Radu, J.D., an adjunct professor in the Villanova Center for Liberal Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Andrew Bove. M.A., also an adjunct professor in VCLE.

Radu began the discussion with a challenge: what to do in the face of an unjust law. He explained how great thinkers, such as Aristotle, Jefferson, Augustine, Locke, and Aquinas, all believed that the law is based on living according to reason. Radu continued to explain that it is engrained in everyone from childhood that the law is always right, which is why when an unjust law occurs the resulting situation is internally problematic.

The resulting consequences of unjust laws have happened many times throughout history. This problem can be traced as far back as Plato when he writes about his unfair trial in the Credo. Radu said that it has continued throughout time, citing the Nuremburg Tribunal and the Jim Crow Laws in the 1950s.

Radu said that this leads to the question, “When unjust laws such as these are enforced, how should individuals react?” Radu illustrated that the great thinker Aquinas believed natural law, or a humans desire to achieve what is good, has higher authority than legislature law.

According to Radu’s analysis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., went as far as to say that it is ones’ moral duty to disobey unjust laws. King believed that the intrinsic values of natural law were going to save those suffering from segregation. Radu then asked: is it possible to fight unjust laws by any other means than with natural law?

Bove continued the lecture elaborating on the freedom perspective held by Dr. King. Radu explained earlier that the difference between the beliefs of Aquinas and the beliefs of King is the fact that Aquinas does not include freedom in his list of the four human goods. By observing human inclinations to employ reason, Aquinas found that Life, Children, Knowledge, and Community are the four human goods.

For King, however, freedom was an essential. It is a part of natural law that comes above legislative law. Bove clarified how freedom can be defined with two different definitions. First, there is the freedom from the beginning, where humans are naturally free before they are in society. He explained that thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke believed that it was humans’ natural rights as citizens to be born free into society. Secondly, Bove said that there is the freedom that comes at the end of life and is achieved over time. This type of freedom is a social condition, and the best example of this is the American colonies gaining their freedom from England. Bove continued to explain that freedom is more than just a natural right, it is an achieved condition.

When freedom is a goal to achieve, just law needs to be more than just a rule on paper, Bove said. He said that just laws do more than protect, they uplift the human personality. It makes a person more human and forces the person to strive toward a higher level of humanity; this is what freedom truly is. When African Americans were given more freedom, crime decreased proving the fact that freedom uplifts personality, Bove said.

Kate McAvey, ‘11, is a first-year student from Mahwah, N.J. She plans to major in Communications. Kate is working as an intern in the Office of Communications in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. Kate’s professional ambitions include broadcasting, public relations, and journalism.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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