The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the great moral leaders of the last century. His ability to frame the particular issues for civil rights in a manner that fostered awareness on the fundamental morality of national policies enabled American society to not only address the injustices of specific practices but to rethink and invoke systemic change within society. This forum will highlight the virtues and traits of moral leaders, the actions they undertake and rationales that underwrite them, and the outcomes that they enable with respect to change in policy, culture, custom, social practices, ethos and writing a new national narrative.
The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr. is director of the Department of Religion at the historic Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. He also serves as senior advisor for community and diversity at Emory University and in August will be installed as the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership within the university’s Candler School of Theology. Franklin is president emeritus of Morehouse College, the nation’s largest private, four-year liberal arts college for men, where he served as the tenth president from 2007 through 2012.
Rev. Franklin formerly served as the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University (2004–2007), where he provided leadership for a university-wide initiative titled “Confronting the Human Condition and the Human Experience” and was a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the law school. He provides commentary for the NPR program “All Things Considered” and weekly commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Television. Franklin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse in 1975 with a degree in political science and religion.
Rev. Franklin holds ordination in two Christian denominations: the American Baptist Churches USA and the Church of God in Christ. Franklin earned the Master of Divinity in Christian social ethics and pastoral care in 1978 at the Harvard Divinity School, where he also served as assistant director of ministry education. Other pastoral positions include assistant pastor at St. Paul Church of God in Christ in Chicago and Protestant chaplain at St. Bernard Hospital, also in Chicago.
He continued his education at the University of Chicago, earning a doctorate in ethics and society, and religion and the social sciences in 1985. He also undertook international study at the University of Durham, UK, as a 1973 English Speaking Union Scholar. His major fields of study include social ethics, psychology and African-American religion. He is also the recipient of honorary degrees from Bethune Cookman University, Bates College and Swarthmore College.
An insightful educator, Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin has served on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Harvard Divinity School, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, where he gained a national reputation as director of Black Church Studies. He also has served as program officer in human rights and social justice at the Ford Foundation, and as an adviser to the foundation’s president on future funding for religion and public life initiatives. Franklin also was invited by American film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg to prepare an online study guide for the congregational use of The Prince of Egypt, a DreamWorks film (1999). Franklin also served as an advisor to the History Channel’s presentation titled, “The Bible” (2013).