Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday, although we celebrate and observe his holiday tomorrow. The holiday is more than the man, but it is important to remember that Dr. King was a man. He was born, he was married, and he had children. It’s possible that they might not have wanted to carry on his legacy, but upon his assassination, their futures were determined.
Fight or flee.
They weren’t the only ones.
I have vague memories of Dr. King, probably from television. I’m not sure how much in schooling I received. I was only about sixteen months old when he was murdered, but I grew up feeling his presence.
My parents weren’t particularly political, but we were Jewish, and so we had always felt a kinship to African-Americans through our continued bias against us, and our brotherhood of slavery regardless of how long ago it was.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a man, an orator, and every day we should be reminded that the struggle is not over. Non-violence is the way, but that does not mean rolling over or giving in. We all have a responsibility to our selves and our fellow citizens to stand up for them, and for us.
Stand up, speak out.
I will call it out.
I will vote.
I will civilly disobey.
I will be the solution.
Here are some thoughts from Dr. King. Imagine what more he would have given us had he lived.
On the true meaning of peace:
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
– Stride Toward Freedom, 1958
On doing what is right:
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
– Oberlin College Commencement Speech, 1965
On resisting hatred:
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
– “I Have a Dream,” 1963
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
– Strength to Love, 1963
On combatting hatred:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
— Strength to Love, 1963
On God’s promise:
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop . . . I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
— “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop,” 1968