I have been reflecting throughout the course of the day today, as our nation pauses to remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on my earliest memories of this great man. My first recollection is in learning of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I recall, as a young boy, being so mesmerized by his oratory presence, and thought the speech was powerful yet eloquent at the same time.
The next series of memories I have is of Selma and the march in that town in the Deep South and as a boy, being so profoundly moved by the resilience of the people and the movement; while at the same time being horrified by the images of police brutality and the unabashedly evil policies of the Jim Crow laws. I could not imagine a place where everything was separated for people on the basis of their skin color. I could not believe as a child, and still cannot believe it as a man, that those hateful policies could happen in America.
The “Freedom Riders” movement has always struck a chord with me, the bravery of those men and women to stand up for what they believed in despite the serious consequences, that type of courage is inspiring. However, at the same time, it was wrong on so many levels that our society had devolved into that situation in the first place. Dr. King said it repeatedly, that if we all treated each other as sisters and brothers, none of those terrible events would ever have had to take place, our society would never had allowed itself to be degraded into such barbaric policies and behaviors.
When I was older, I remember reading Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” one summer when I was home from school. I was struck with how poised and succinct his writing was during what must have been incredibly difficult conditions during his confinement in a small prison cell. I recall being drawn to his methods of nonviolence because I do not believe that violent behavior of any kind is acceptable, nor is it a capable way of resolving any dispute.
In the years since that summer night, I have worked in jobs where I had this day off and others where I had to work on Martin Luther King Day. In the years where I had to work, I would always listen to a recording of his famous speeches on my commute into work in the car. It was a small way in which I would pause and remember and reflect on Dr. King’s remarkable life.
I went to the National Civil Rights Museum with my wife one hot summer day in Memphis several years ago, and I recall feeling so many emotions at one time. I felt a profound sadness when we saw the suite where Dr. King was assassinated that April evening so many years before. I felt regret because I realized that while some things had changed in the area of race relations in America, not much had changed at all.
Even still today, almost fifty years after the death of Dr. King, we still have so much room to progress in race relations in our country. I am deeply saddened by the inequalities that still divide our society, our educational system, and our socio-economic structure. The events of the past six months are evidence that we have a long way to go with progressing toward a better tomorrow for all Americans.
I return to Dr. King and his position towards nonviolence as the best way to progress towards further advancements in these issues which still divide our society. I think we can all agree that his movement to promote peace between all races should still be the model utilized in order to make that progress today.
On a personal level, I was at a crossroads in my life at one point, around this time of the year, and it was in remembering the extraordinary life and remarkable courage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I made a bold decision in my own life. I have not regretted making it ever since.
In the end, I hope that one day the dream of Dr. King can be realized and we can all live together in peace and harmony. It is possible, and it is by honoring and remembering Dr. King that I hope our society can move ever closer to that ultimate goal; and by revisiting the Judeo-Christian core values of our country and loving each other as sisters and brothers that it will become a reality.