The commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seeks to remind every individual of his staunch leadership in a pivotal point in history. Although we recognize today as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, our attention is called to more than just his birth, but more so what he accomplished for this nation during his life. This was a man who carried the torch of freedom during the Civil Rights Movement, inciting others to do the same, the activist who marched on Washington, the leader who stood strong in the very face of fear, and the minister who spoke the Word of God in confidence. We are celebrating a leader who died so that you and I could enjoy the freedom that was already enacted in the United States Constitution by way of the 13th Amendment.
With much adversity, Dr. King fought to abolish the Jim Crow laws of his time, a racial caste system erected where black people were separated from white people and considered inferior simply due to the color of their skin. Although the Emancipation Proclamation signed on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery where millions of slaves were freed, still one hundred years later in 1963 Dr. King had a dream. He had a dream where both white and black people alike would live in harmony; a dream where his children would be judged not based upon the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. His vision was prophetic in nature. Note the words of Dr. King on the night before he was tragically killed: “I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
In that same speech, Dr. King noted that we would have difficult days ahead, but that wasn’t reason to abandon the “promised land.” The promised land that was pledged when this nation was formed. Just as his wife, Coretta Scott King, said just days after his demise: “If you give your life to a cause in which you believe, and if it is right and just, and if your life comes to an end as a result of this, then your life could not have been spent in a more redemptive way. I think that is what my husband has done.”
The torch to continue the fight was passed through the hands of many who made countless sacrifices, even with their own lives. Today, more than forty years after that famous I Have a Dream speech we are still witnessing history being made as President Barack Obama begins his second term as the first African American President of the United States. President Obama’s presence in the White House as a biracial, black and white, American is reminiscent of the words Dr. King spoke decades prior. The leader of our nation symbolizes what took years of rallies, marches, and sit-ins to get us to where we are on today. We must continue to forge ahead, remembering how much it took for us to arrive where we are, understanding that the freedom we now enjoy really wasn’t free.
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This was a day of great reflection. In me, it prompts a motivation to do more, to share more, and to be more appreciative. Dr. King had a dream that impacted the world around him. This was a dream that could not have been achieved first without God, and secondly without those supporters around him. He had a dream for change; change for the better. The question today is do we have a dream? And if so, what are we going to do about it?