This weekend we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was the loudest moral voice in a turbulent time in our history. In his March on Washington, he eloquently demanded that America live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality. Many can still quote passages from his “I Have a Dream” speech that he gave at the Lincoln Memorial.
King saw his oratory as a means to connect people, to motivate them, to challenge them. For the Civil Rights movement was not a movement of mere words, but of action. King organized millions across the country to stand up for Civil Rights through marches, protests, boycotts, sit-ins, strikes, and voter registration. While many of these people performed heroic deeds in the face of hatred and violence, they were ordinary citizens who King and others empowered and embold
ened to question authority and injustice.
King believed in the power of community and the deep connections between all people in our human family. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King speaks of the ties between us:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
In those words is a clarion call to come together, to care for our neighbors, and to consider any wrong against another to be a wrong against us all. There is certainly an emotional cost wrought by that line of thinking. It is easier to go about our day and worry only about our jobs, our families, and our lives. However, King knew that we find purpose and meaning in our lives when we serve others. We unlock the power in ourselves when we lift up our neighbors. Furthermore, we are responsible for creating the society and community we want to live in.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Everyone has the obligation to care about others, and everyone has a role to play in making America better. Martin Luther King had a dream for a land of “liberty and justice for all” a land where we would be judged “by the content of our character.” We are all now the guardians of King’s dream and our efforts on behalf of our communities will ensure our union grows ever more perfect.