Today we remember and honor the life and legacy of arguably one of the most important men in American history – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The great civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968, sparked a non-violent revolution in the cause of justice and for an end to racism.
He told us he had “a dream” and asked us to share that dream: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
He also promised that if we worked together “we will he able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
Born Jan. 15, 1929 and assassinated on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was a Baptist preacher who was the moral voice of and leader in the civil rights movement. He was a proponent of change through nonviolent means. His efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
His vision of a just America also made him a hated target by racists who did not share his dream. An assassin’s bullet took Dr. King’s life, but it could not kill his dream.
Last year, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, about 2,000 people gathered on the National Mall April 4 to commemorate the sad anniversary and to recommit themselves to the causes espoused by Dr. King.
Among those at the gathering was Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell. He said that Catholics stand “united in resolve to end the sin of racism.”
Bishop Campbell said that although Dr. King was assassinated “silencing his voice did not silence his words. Dr. King heard Jesus’s call to proclaim to a segregated nation that all men are created equal.”
Dr. King’s love of God brought him to love even those who would fight him and his efforts to end segregation and injustice. He told us that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
In his famous 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written while confined in the city jail there, Dr. King explained that his motivation to fight injustice came from his Christian faith. In that widely circulated letter, Dr. King wrote that “Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns . . . so am I compelled to carry the Gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.”
Today, as we honor this great man, many of us will recall his “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered during the 1963 March on Washington. It is well and good to should strive to make his dream our own. And we can make that dream a reality by also remembering these words of Dr. King; “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice,” and “The time is always right to do what is right.”