Monday, January 21, 2013

A Tribute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s work and writings were inspirational to many people from many different walks of life, but not always for the same reasons. Congress has devoted an entire holiday to commemorate his legacy, but there remains considerable debate about what exactly that legacy should be. Part of the debate stems from the apparent ambiguity of King's writings and speeches on "equality", such that it is common for people on opposite sides of the same policy issue to quote King's work as plausible evidence that he'd have agreed with them. From affirmative action to gay marriage, politicians and activists of all kinds love to hijack King's fame in order to advance their cause. The result is that determining what King really stood for can sometimes get pretty contentious.

But at its root, Dr. King's greatest and most enduring message is not political in nature. MLK probably held political opinions that many of his admirers would oppose today, and vice-versa. What made King a true hero was not what he believed in, so much as his willingness and ability to stand up for it. Despite immense odds and tremendous danger, he was willing to do what he felt was right. And through his brilliant nonviolent resistance, his eloquent and passionate speeches, his unparalleled leadership and unending courage, he was able to beat those odds and achieve justice. In the process, he sacrificed his safety, his time, his freedom, and eventually his life. 

It is often said that we should learn to accept the things we cannot change. If your goal in life is to be as happy as possible, that's probably good advice.
Adopting that mindset reduces the stress in life, which allows us to concentrate on the things we enjoy and better appreciate the things we take for granted.

But if your goal in life is to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others, that mindset invites weakness and failure. If we truly wish to make the world a better place, then that mindset is a cop out, because it allows us to hide from the unsettling guilt we feel when we witness an injustice. It is so much easier to reassure ourselves that what's wrong with the world is beyond our control than it is to get off the couch and do something about it, because only the first option vindicates our prior inaction and frees us of any future responsibility. That mindset allows us to avoid daunting challenges by convincing us that success is impossible.

Only a select few have the courage, selflessness, and strength of character to face those challenges. Even fewer have the conviction, determination, and mettle to succeed at the endeavor.
Those few are leaders and heroes, because they inspire the rest of us not to accept the things we cannot change, but to change the things we cannot accept. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of those few.

Here are a few of my favorite MLK quotes:
“A man can't ride your back unless it's bent.”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
“A right delayed is a right denied.”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
“The goal of America is freedom.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
“I have a dream today. That one day my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
 “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Anyone interested in reading more of King's brilliant, inspirational writings may be interested in the below link. This was a letter King wrote while incarcerated in a Birmingham Jail to some fellow black pastors who had criticized his protest tactics. A bit long, but truly worth the read: what a leader!

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