This weekend we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor. It’s well deserved. In the 1960’s Dr. King led the struggle against racial discrimination. His dream was to use the rights of the Constitution to be a nation abiding by the words of the Constitution. He inspired his supporters to use freedom of speech; the power of words not fists. He advocated non-violent protest — even when the opposition was violent. His leadership of the Civil Rights Movement created huge gains for African Americans, but discrimination hasn't gone away.
It's most powerful to hear Dr. King's perspective in his own words. He inspired peaceful activism then, and his ideas are equally valid today.
“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”
“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest injustice.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things”
“We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.”
“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of us.”
“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
“We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if words fail, we will try to persuade with peaceful acts."
"In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’”
“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”
“Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”
History has shown the wisdom of Dr. King's words — that oppression leads to revolution. Since the 1960’s we've made progress addressing racial discrimination, women's inequality, and gay liberation. We’ve put anti-bias laws in place to protect these human rights. But we’ve also seen that attitudes and behaviors change slowly.
Martin Luther King had faith that one day all Americans would stand together as equals. His vision is now in our hands. When we speak up and stand together, we continue the peaceful realization of his dream.