For those of us of a certain age, it is hard to imagine that 2013 will mark 45 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis while he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Recalling the news of his murder still brings chills and a deep sense of sadness that never will subside.
For those who are too young to have been alive in that era of American history, there are a few things that everyone should know about Dr. King that should provide inspiration to all of us.
First, he was not perfect. No person is or ever has been. Dr. King was just like any of us; he had his strengths and he had his weaknesses, and like all of us, he made some mistakes.
Second, Dr. King was fearless. He knew from the inception of his rise to prominence of the civil rights movement that he would become a target for those who opposed change. Yet, even though he often told others that he believed his death would be imminent, he did not relent in his fight to continue his work in the civil rights movement.
Third, Dr. King stood for the rights of all Americans, not merely those of color. Indeed, he was in Memphis working with striking sanitation workers whose pay and working conditions he was seeking to help improve. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War because he knew it to be an unjust war, not only for poor Americans who could not get a deferment for the draft, but also for the people of Vietnam, whose homeland was being bombed into oblivion at great profit for the American military-industrial complex.
If Dr. King were alive in the present era, there is no doubt that he would have been in the forefront of the Occupy Wall Street movement of two years back that highlighted the economic inequality which exists in America today and that oppresses Americans of all races.
By any measure, Dr. Martin Luther King was a great man. His speeches ring as true today as they did two generations ago; indeed, his “I Have A Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches are among the most powerful not only in American history, but in all of Western civilization.
All of us should realize from the example set by Dr. King that in each of us is the power to change the world. We may not be as gifted as Dr. King was with his oratory, but each of us has the capacity to inspire others, whether through our words or deeds, whether on a small or large scale, to make the world a better place. Countless of our fellow citizens have followed the path set by Dr. King and countless more will do so in the years ahead.
So as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let us recall not only his memory and the great things he did, but the great things that his legacy is continuing to bring about more than two generations after his death.