For those of a certain age, it is hard to imagine that 2024 will mark 56 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis while he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Recalling how we felt when he first heard the news of Dr. King’s murder still brings chills and a deep sense of sadness that never has subsided.
For those who are too young to have been alive in that era of American history, there are a few things that everyone should know about Dr. King that should provide inspiration to all of us.
First, Dr. King was fearless. He knew from the inception of his rise to prominence of the Civil Rights movement that he would become a target for those who opposed change. Yet, even though he often told others that he believed his death would be imminent, he did not relent in his fight to continue his work in the civil rights movement.
Second, Dr. King stood for the rights of all Americans, not merely those of color. He was in Memphis working with striking sanitation workers, whose pay and working conditions he was seeking to help improve. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War because he knew it to be an unjust war, not only for poor Americans who could not get a college deferment for the draft, but also for the people of Vietnam, whose homeland was being bombed into oblivion at great profit for the American military-industrial complex.
If Dr. King were alive in the present era, there is no doubt that he would have been in the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement that has highlighted the ongoing racism and economic inequality that oppresses Americans of all races today.
Dr. King’s words ring as true today as they did two generations ago; his “I Have A Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches are among the most powerful not only in American history, but in all of Western civilization.
All of us should learn from the example set by Dr. King that in each of us is the power to change the world — that each of us has the capacity to inspire others, whether through our words or deeds, whether on a small or large scale, to make the world a better place.
Many of our fellow citizens have followed the path set by Dr. King and many more will do so in the years ahead. So as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday, let us recall not only his memory and the many things that he accomplished, but let us also resolve never to give in to the forces of intolerance, prejudice, and hate that continue to plague our country and the world today.