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Champion for respect, compassion

9:37 AM  Jun 6th, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

On April 4, 2018, eyes will turn to Memphis, Tennessee, to remember the tragic event that occurred 50 years prior and the legacy left by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., known as our nation’s great peacemaker. It occurred at the Lorraine Motel, now the location of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Terri Lee Freeman ’81 is president of the museum in Memphis, where she lives with her husband and youngest daughter. Freeman said she believes our country is at a pivotal point in history, and change is on the horizon. 

“The legacy that Dr. King left us compels us to work with those people who are not necessarily of the same mindset and to communicate with those people and find a way to stem some of the personal biases we have. Because ultimately, it’s about creating human relationships,” Freeman said.

The communication major, who previously served as the president of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region (aka Greater Washington Community Foundation), said she feels the country is more polarized than it’s ever been and worries that people are becoming rigid and inflexible in not wanting to understand opposing viewpoints or ideals.

She said she hopes her work at the museum helps visitors gain insight into another time in history when the nation was at odds with itself, to emphasize how important it is that people learn to work together, with respect and compassion, to achieve positive social change.

“I think that what is happening right now, both politically and culturally in this country, is not just a moment. I do believe it’s a movement,” she said.

Yet, as she looks at millennials and centennials, she said she is inspired.

“These young people are really engaged. They are a lot more informed about what’s going on than I was at their age. So, I’m optimistic.”

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