2015-01-14 / Editorials

Martin Luther King Day 2015

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is honored every year as a federal holiday, which means we honor his vision of civil rights as our own.

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is among the most extolled in our country’s history and nearly 52 years later, it is as relevant as ever. It was an urgent message of justice and equality, and also of peaceful means and hope. When we read it, we can see the monumental strides that we have made, and also the road ahead.

Observances of the holiday celebrating his birthday, which this year falls on Monday, January 19, will surely acknowledge that King’s vision for America included the realization that all Americans, whatever their ethnicity, or other qualities, deserve an equal chance – to make a decent living for themselves and their families, to be left in peace to live their lives and go about their business undisturbed. People should not be judged based on their characteristics: race, gender, sexual orientation, age, appearance, their occupation or religion – which for the most part they have no say in – but on character. As long as they are not harming others, they must not be persecuted or discriminated against. And we cannot judge individuals by what another member of their group may have done.

We must honor King’s memory and not tarnish it, take personal responsibility for being civil and always examine our own conscience as to whether we are judging entire groups by their appearance, or the actions of a few members, for that is the definition of prejudice. A society not grounded in fairness can never claim to be free, and so we must strive to live up to the ideals our country was founded upon.

Showing respect to others in all our encounters and messages would go a long way toward a peaceful coexistence for all.

King dreamed of an America where every person can live their life without persecution and go on to attain the highest position his or her qualifications merit.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for truly embodying the spirit of peace and justice for all, King met violence with dignity and a graciousness that helped him achieve goals of astonishing significance by means of a force that proved thousands of times more powerful than fire hoses, police dogs and the bullet that ended his life on the balcony of a Memphis hotel room, on Apr. 4, 1968, at the age of 39.

Because Martin Luther King Jr. believed that all Americans deserve an equal chance to be all that they have the potential to be, today, 86 years after his birth and almost 47 years after his death, we live in an America that offers all its citizens a vastly improved range of possibilities. How we choose to avail ourselves of those possibilities is up to each one of us. On next Monday, January 19, it would be fitting that we pause to reflect on the debt we owe to the man who was among those responsible for making this a land of opportunity for all.

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