A Day to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For many of us, January provides the chance to start fresh, think of exciting new goals, and begin building new dreams. January is also a month to celebrate diversity and the life, works and dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the last article published before he was murdered, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote with renewed urgency about the need for change: “. . . but everywhere, ‘time is winding up,’” he said, recalling the words of a spiritual:

“Corruption in the land, people take your stand; time is winding up.” In spite of years of national progress, the plight of the poor is worsening. Jobs are on the decline as a result of technological change, schools North and South are proving them (selves) more and more inadequate to the task of providing adequate education and thereby entrance into the mainstream of the society. Medical care is still virtually out of reach for millions of black and white poor. They are aware of the great advances of medical sciences—heart transplants, miracle drugs—but their children still die of preventable diseases.”

Written in April 1968, these words are haunting in their discomforting familiarity. We have come far in the past 46 years, but even so, corruption is still in the land and students deserve a higher level of educational opportunity. American low income families are without health coverage, and children are dying worldwide of AIDS despite miracle drugs. Sometimes it is hard to see progress.

But Martin Luther King, Jr., never lost hope. Nor should we. He ended his article for Look magazine with words of encouragement: “All of us are on trial in this troubled hour, but time still permits us to meet the future with a clear conscience.” If he were with us today, King might say, “the future is here.” Time has wound up. The future is here in this troubled hour.

Every year at this time, we pause to celebrate the birth of Dr. King and to examine our conscience, both in relation to the past and to the future. It is a moment of reflection and a time to recall the wisdom and encouragement that came from King’s struggle to overcome enormous odds in his personal life and in his role as the conscience of the nation. We celebrate his birth and his life, instead of lamenting his death, because his story is one of hope and profound faith in the capacity of mankind to change, to improve, and to create a just and equitable society. King was not happy about the rate of change at his death because he knew we could do more, and more quickly. But he knew that the only way to ensure progress is to keep score–to hold individuals, institutions, communities, states, and the nations of the world accountable for what each has done.

Monday is a day to remember Dr. King’s life and to keep the spirit of his message alive. We remember a man who dedicated his life to the hope that one day people from around the world would be able to walk together as brothers and sisters. In this time of increasing global conflict, Dr. King’s life and pursuit of social change through non-violent means can serve as an example for us all.

Dr. King once said that, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” I am so proud to interact with people each day that have dedicated their lives to strengthening their communities and their nation. Through our work each day and through important days of remembrance like this one, we can keep Dr. King’s message and ideals alive.

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