Monday, many will celebrate the life and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Atlanta-born civil rights leader who inspired millions in the 1960s with his dream of a better life and equal opportunity for all people.
It’s important we remember that as we honor his life Monday. Because while King rose to prominence as a civil rights leader during a time when society openly practiced discrimination against African Americans, King’s hopes were for all Americans — indeed, for all people.
That was evident in his speeches.
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood," said King in one of his most stirring speeches. And at a time when there were many in both the black and white communities who thought violence was a way to further their goals, this son of Georgia remained committed to peace.
"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon," he said, "which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."
Despite the appearance of race in the Democratic primary, with candidates using King to make points, this country has come a long way since the days of violence in places such as Little Rock, Montgomery and Selma. Yet King’s dream has yet to be realized. There are still far too many of the same ills that plagued his time which continue to rear their ugly heads in our time. Too much poverty, too much racism — practiced by people of all colors against those who look or act differently — and too little understanding that what we allow to separate us makes us weaker, not stronger, and poorer, not richer.
Perhaps that’s part of our weakness as humans. After all, we’re born imperfect and certainly die so. Still, as King said, "we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
There is no doubt that this country is a better, richer and nobler place because of King’s life. "We may have all come on different ships," he once said. "But we’re in the same boat now."
Those words continue to ring true today. King’s vision is still one worth believing in.
Bryan County News
Jan. 19, 2008