This coming Monday, January 16 is the federal holiday that, this year, commemorates the 94th birthday of the great civil rights leader, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nearly fifty-five years have passed since Dr. King’s assassination in April 1968, meaning, of course, that fewer of us currently living remember his galvanizing speeches, the courageous marches and boycotts he led, his unyielding insistence on non-violence, his raising up of the poor and downtrodden, his many arrests and jail time spent for protesting the terrible racism, segregation, and discrimination in our nation.
So how are we now to think of what Dr. King’s legacy means to us all these years later, in the year 2023?
We believe we can best honor Dr. King by being living legacies to his life, work, and example, that we can work in our own lives to emulate him by adopting and following these hallmarks of his life and work:
● Servant leadership – Dr. King’s leadership was not about himself, not about power for himself, not about self-aggrandizement. He acted to serve the poor, the downtrodden, the victims of society’s worst behaviors – no matter their background or color. We can do that, too.
● Non-violent protest – Intentionally adopting the teachings of the great Indian leader, Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. King insisted that the boycotts and protests and marches and gatherings he led be non-violent, in word and in deed. He insisted that the protesters and marchers absolutely not initiate nor respond with verbal or physical violence no matter what violence was rained down upon them, verbally and physically, by police, the National Guard, bystanders, the KKK, and many others. We can do that, too.
● Never giving up – No matter the daunting odds and the grave dangers he faced, societally, legally, physically, financially, Dr. King would not give up. He knew the fight to achieve civil rights, in fact as well as in law, would be a very, very long one, one that would not be “over” at a defined point in time, one that could well last beyond his lifetime. No matter the beatings and the jailings and the setbacks and the open racism and bigotry leveled at him, he would not give up. We can do that, too.
● Willingly sacrificing for and working for the common good – Dr. King knew that answering God’s call to him for leadership in the civil rights movement would come at real personal sacrifice, in his personal and family life, in his professional life as an ordained minister, in his relationships within and outside of the movement. He believed he was called to serve something bigger than his individual self. He knew this would involve personal sacrifice, and he accepted that cost, in small ways and large ways. He believed he was called to serve the common good, to help his fellow humans be their best selves. We can do that, too.
Thank you, Dr. King, for your life, your example, and your living legacy to us - to all of us.
Ann & Patricia