Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Martin Luther King (MLK) is a hero. In fact, MLK is a hero among heroes. He continues to inspire until today.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have many heroes. Each hero is on my 'hero list' for different reasons.
All my heroes are human. Hence, each comes with particular faults. However, heroes are not about faults. They are about the human spirit and our capacity to accomplish against all odds.
MLK fought against an entrenched legal and moral system. His weaponry consisted only of courage and words. He moved people with speeches. (Anyone aspiring to be a public speaker will do well to listen to his public addresses.)
In 1964 MLK became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
During his life, he influenced an evolving black civil rights movement to stay largely non-violent and respect the confines of an unjust legal system. At the time, there were many other competing power centres within the black civil rights community. Several professed violence as a means to achieve a just end.
On April 4, 1968 Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. He was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
MLK reminds us that to achieve anything substantial is impossible without discipline and perseverance. A lesson we lesser mortals often forget. We wish to attain our goals quickly and without any risk of failure.
Life is seldom easy. Winning a lottery is virtually impossible.
MLK was a pacifist. He abhorred violence even at the price of suffering police brutality.
I shudder to think what MLK would say about the way in which violence has entered contemporary life. Violence is almost acceptable as a legitimate method to precipitate change (regime change anyone?) by state and non-state actors alike. Still, not all change has been negative during the last four decades.
We must not forget that President Obama is black.
"Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measures of Man, 1959.
The famous "I have a dream" speech delivered at the March on Washington (1963)