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A Message from the President

August 27, 2021

Dear Members of the Villanova Community,

Villanova University’s nearly 180-year history is a collection of powerful stories—the individual moments, milestones and experiences that when considered together, comprise the collective Villanova story. 

One of those stories is that of George Raveling, a 1960 Villanova graduate. George was one of the more than 200,000 marchers, attendees and dignitaries who gathered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. It was on this day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. George, who served as a security volunteer, was so moved by the message that he asked for the original copy of the speech as Dr. King left the stage. Dr. King obliged his humble request and from that instant, the defining address of the civil rights movement has remained with George Raveling, until now. 

Today, I am happy to announce that Villanova University has become the speech’s next steward, and we are humbled and honored by this extraordinary responsibility.

George Raveling, who was chosen as Villanova's Commencement speaker in 2016 , has long credited Villanova, and his transformative experience here, as making him the person he is today. Over the past few years, George has often expressed to me, and others in our community, his desire to have Villanova University—an institution founded by the Augustinian friars on the premise of inclusion and justice—become the next steward of the speech. Thanks to a group of dedicated alumni who were instrumental in ensuring George’s wishes were met, and who were committed to fulfilling a shared vision of the landmark speech’s importance, Villanova has been entrusted to provide broad access to all those who seek to learn from and be inspired by Dr. King’s words.

In working with George to ensure the broadest possible exposure for Dr. King’s powerful message, Villanova has collaborated with The Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. to establish an exclusive, long-term “on loan” arrangement. As one of the country’s most significant documents, it is critically important that it is shared, studied and absorbed in as deep and as wide a manner as possible. When not “on loan,” the speech will reside on Villanova’s campus, in a secure location that has yet to be determined. I will share the specifics of those details as they are finalized.

The first public display of the speech will be from August 28 to September 23, 2021, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The “I Have a Dream Speech” will be a part of the Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation exhibit . The display will feature a close-up image of King delivering the speech and label text to provide insight into the history of the speech and its lasting cultural impact as one of the defining moments of the Civil Rights Movement.

The excitement of sharing this announcement is tempered by the fact that nearly 60 years after Dr. King delivered this aspirational speech, there is still much work to do toward creating equity and justice for all. I pray that we live up to the enormous responsibility of stewarding this important piece of American history. I pray that we will soon live in a world in which no life is stifled by racism. And, most importantly I hope all those who read Dr. King’s words heed his sage words “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”