Martin Luther King

In a wonderful bit of circumstance, this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on the day when President Barack Obama – the first African-American elected President of the United States – will be inaugurated for his second term.

That a black person could grow up and become president may not have been possible when Rev. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, but the fact it would one day be possible is at the heart of his message in those famous words.

We would not claim that because Barack Obama has twice been elected President of the United States, suddenly all attitudes on race have been reversed. On the contrary, we still have a long way to go in that regard. But we have come a long wa, largely because of Rev. King. Largely through his eloquent speeches, writings and actions during the 1950s and 1960s, Rev. King held a mirror on American society that forced much of white America to reassess racial attitudes prevalent in the country at the time. The image Rev. King made many see made Americans realize the inequality and unfairness that then existed and helped to bring about civil rights gains so needed and so long in coming.

An assassin’s bullet silenced that wonderful voice in April 1968, but Rev. King’s words still stand tall, like the beautiful mountains in our state, to remind us all of where we came from and where we still have to go to achieve that dream.

On this occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we should take some time and reflect on Rev. King’s words and career.

* Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

* Segregation is the adultery of an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality.

* All progress is precarious and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.

* I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

* Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

* The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion, it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

* Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”