Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born 81 years ago last week. In his 39 short years of life, he accomplished more than most men can muster in a lifetime. That he was an African American at a time in our history where such things were unheard of (let alone even “allowed”), Dr. King showed us what an unmovable faith in God, an unstoppable determination, a deep-seated sense of commitment, and a fearless willingness to make personal sacrifices can accomplish.

He was a minister, an activist, Nobel Peace prize winner, husband and father, and he gave his life in the fight for freedom and justice. Many speeches and parades took place today across the country, and many dignitaries and politicians and VIPs took time to honor and remember his life and the the things he fought for. Perhaps most significant about this particular MLK Day is that the sitting President of the United States presiding over this years’ commemoration is himself an African American; something Dr. King knew in his heart would someday be true, though sadly not soon enough for him to see firsthand.

Dr. King’s “I have a Dream Speech”, while especially remarkable this year because of what our President represents, is used too freely I think in shaping how he is remembered. His words in Oslo when he accepted the Nobel Peace prize in December of 1964 are as good, if not better, to reflect upon today in these times and confronted with such problems. In honor and remembrance of Dr. King’s legacy today, I leave some of those words here to reflect upon:

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!

Martin Luther King, Jr: January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968. May he rest in peace.