Eric H. Holder Jr. to give keynote address at UChicago’s MLK commemoration

Jan. 23 event to include talk with former U.S. attorney general and Valerie Jarrett

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will give the keynote address at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Celebration on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

Holder, the first African American to serve as the nation’s attorney general, will offer remarks and then will have a conversation with Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett, a University Trustee and distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. President Paul Alivisatos will give opening remarks. The program is free and open to the public, and guests are encouraged to register for tickets and for access to the livestream

“It is a pleasure to welcome former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as a distinguished guest at this year’s commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy,” said Vice Provost Waldo E. Johnson Jr. “A lifelong advocate of equal justice and civil rights, he exemplifies Dr. King’s values and commitments. Mr. Holder has helped to carry on Dr. King’s mission of fighting for equal rights and social justice for all.” 

Holder, the senior counsel at Covington in Washington, D.C., has served in government for more than 30 years, having been appointed to various positions by Presidents Obama, Clinton and Reagan. He also chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which was launched in 2017 to reform partisan gerrymandering.

Holder’s most recent book is Our Unfinished March, which describes the tumultuous history of the fight to vote in the U.S. and details the challenges that minority voters still face today. The book also offers a blueprint for protecting voting rights in the U.S.

As U.S. attorney general, Holder defended voter rights, including the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He excoriated politically motivated voter ID laws engineered to suppress minority and youth votes and he spearheaded the Justice Department’s efforts to overturn such laws across the country.

The 33rd annual MLK commemoration continues a rich tradition at UChicago, which annually invites speakers who have followed in King’s footsteps as agents of change and proponents of peace and justice to address the University community. Past speakers have included Obama, award-winning author Isabel Wilkerson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Dr. King himself spoke at Rockefeller Chapel twice, in 1956 and 1959.

During the commemoration, Alivisatos also will recognize the winners of the Diversity Leadership Awards. Uniting Voices Chicago (formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir) will perform during the event.

In addition, the University Community Service Center has developed and sponsored several service and civic engagement opportunities.