We live in a time of civil unrest and upheaval caused by disease, economic downturn, inequality, deterioration of our justice system, and government failure. Where will the people turn to? Who will lead us out of this quandary? What leaders will stand up for the people?
Many years ago, an African-American preacher named Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) laid down his life and dedicated it to the spread of democracy and the pursuit of civil rights in America through global non-violence and civil disobedience. Several of the principles that he held so dear, we are still fighting for today. Most of the world knows Dr. MLK Jr. for his “I have a dream” speech. But to know MLK Jr. is to know thyself and what he stood for: in service of others, against inequality, for peaceful resolutions, and most of all, for faith and determination.
Dr. MLK, Jr. believed in all men and women’s rights, regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. He learned these philosophies from his father, MLK, Sr., who was also a pastor, activist, and role model for his son. The church became a vehicle and anchor for King to preach and gather followers for the movement. He believed in non-violent protests and civil disobedience to achieve justice. King reminded his followers that:
“World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Non-violence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.”-Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.
MLK, Jr. Met with President Kennedy, President Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover (Head of FBI for almost 40 years) as a liaison between the people and government. In the meetings, they attempted to discuss racial and economic inequality and tensions building over various disputes. Over the years, King met with various global leaders about the continuing struggles of the oppressed.
King is known for his participation in March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 with the “Big Six” Leaders (NAACP, National Urban League, Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, SNCC, and Congress of Racial Equality. He had been arrested 29 times. On the 13th arrest, while in custody, he drafted “The Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which addressed the pursuit of legal avenues for social change. King also was involved with the Sit-Ins in Atlanta, Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Address in NYC, ground-breaking marches in Montgomery and Selma, AL, Chicago, and St. Augustine, FL.
“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”-Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.
In 1964, MLK Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts against racial inequality through non-violence resistance. His opposition against poverty and the Vietnam War, however unpopular at the time, he still was determined. “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In 1971, the US began celebrating King’s birthday. Ronald Regan signed into legislation the national celebration of his birthday in 1986 (Jan 15th). The MLK, Jr. Monument was dedicated on the National Mall in 2011. We celebrate his life by appreciating his passion for change, long-lasting legacy, and timeless words of wisdom.
“The Time is always to do what is right”-Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.