2016-01-13 / Editorials

Remembering King

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday will be celebrated on Monday, January 18, and it is a day to not only commemorate the legacy of King, but also to renew the ideals upon which his leadership was founded – brotherhood, freedom, and equality among all. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was given the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964, and his name is nearly synonymous with peace, but that does not mean he was complacent – anything but. He was a civil rights activist since the age of 26, in 1955, and was a courageous, visionary leader who preached much of which we now accept as self-evident truths, but which were not so in the US before the Civil Rights Movement. Flying in the face of convention was dangerous, and King paid the ultimate price. However, his message stands, with even more power because he refused to back down.

It is said King’s principles were based on Christianity, (he earned a doctorate in systematic theology, and bachelors’ degrees in sociology and divinity). King had said he was raised in comfort, able to attend college and focus on his studies, yet he took the faith he was raised in to heart. Perhaps one of the most famous quotes from the Bible which we think sums up King’s foundational Christian message is, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

It is also said his demonstrations were based on Mahatma Gandhi’s method of passive resistance, a way of protesting injustice peacefully, as integrity dictates that the ends do not justify the means. The means were also most effective, since aggression would only be met with more aggression, and negative public opinion. As thunderous as King’s oration was, it is said that person to person he was quiet, attending meetings with others passionately involved in the movement whose emotions naturally ran high, and he listened to all angles, goals and strategies, then somehow synthesizing the feelings and wishes of all, and managing to keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal, laid out a plan of action that satisfied everyone so they could coalesce into a unified movement. He had the ability as well, to mobilize and galvanize the crowds who heard him, for his words were not founded upon his own glory and power, but a more fair and just world for everyone.

King was born on January 15, 1929 and died on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39, when he was assassinated while in the midst of planning the Poor People’s Campaign to convene in Washington, DC. Nearly 50 years ago, and his profound message still resonates. Numerous cities and states have been celebrating MLK Day since 1971, and it was made a federal holiday in 1986.

We leave you with a lesser-known quote by King from a speech delivered to a National Urban League conference in 1960, but which we feel is timeless:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, therefore, no American can afford to be apathetic about the problem of racial justice. It is a problem that meets every man at his front door.”

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