Today the nation honors Martin Luther King, Junior. The original intent of the holiday was to “serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Martin Luther King, Junior.” We propose the day should be more than that. It should be a day for each of us to commit ourselves to the same qualities displayed by MLK and all those who fought for political and civil rights before, during, and after his time.
Among those qualities are courage, persistence, and leadership. Courage to speak and act in the face of intimidation. Even if it leads to death, as it did for MLK and too many others. Persistence despite many, many obstacles. Leadership, enough to encourage millions to join and support the cause – a cause that remains a work in progress even now.
Leadership might seem like a stretch for an ordinary person but it is not – any one of us can lead by example. We can show respect without prejudice to our fellow Americans – regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, political ideology, religion, gender, or sexual preference. Showing respect opens hearts and minds, and thus eases our way forward in life. Best of all, respect begets respect.
Image: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Father Theodore Hesburgh singing “We Shall Overcome” at a 1964 civil rights rally in Soldier Field, Chicago.