As we in the U.S. celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday this coming Monday I wanted to post a reflection on this blog regarding the man and his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was declared a national holiday on November 2, 1983. The very man who signed it into law, President Ronald Reagan would often refer to Dr. King’s speech to justify some of his policies. If you dig a little deeper Dr. King wanted more than just a color-blind society, he strove for a just society.
In his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr. King spoke about how the architects of the Declaration were in essence signing a promissory note to all American people to be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, Dr. King noted, “…America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.” Dr. King made note of the fact that given that America is the greatest country in the world it has fallen short of providing some its first citizens the basic rights and opportunities that were promised them.
He also warned about complacency when it came to change. Dr. King in his speech stated, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” This was something that is not often touched upon when people when they reference the “I Have a Dream Speech.” We often get lazy in terms of creating social change for the benefit of our fellow man. Truly, Dr. King was a visionary because he saw how injustice to a people group cannot be ignored. Especially in a system that economically disadvantages a people group. Dr. King said it best, ” We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.” Dr. King’s words could go for the Native American, Latino or the Appalachian.
Still, Dr. King realized that change must be demanded in a peaceful fashion :
“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.”
Soul force. What a concept.