Monday, January 20, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: My Remarks

Last week as I was preparing for this holiday, I spent a little time re-reading some of Dr. King's words, and listening again to some of his speeches.

As always, I was struck by the awesome power of his gifts…the way he never failed to find the right sentiment, expressed in the most perfect words, carried by the most captivating voice, backed up by the most inspiring courage.

And just look at what he did with those gifts. 

Just look at what he accomplished - a man with no formal authority, a man with no official power, a man who was harassed, oppressed, and threatened at every turn, a man who was murdered before he reached the age of 40. 

But he did more in his short life as a private citizen than most elected officials do in theirs. And that's exactly why, today, Dr. King's legacy outshines that of countless presidents, senators, governors, justices of the court, generals of the army.

While they merely served America, Dr. Martin Luther King did something better: he changed it. 

And he did it all without violenceLincoln is a hero because he won a Civil War. Dr. King is a hero because he prevented one. 

As he said while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964: "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

He didn't just start a revolution, he changed the way revolutions happen. 

Now every movement uses his methods and tactics. All around the world, people who care about civil rights know his name, and admire his example.

I certainly do. The other day I came across these words, from one of his most famous works, the Letter from Birmingham Jail.

He wrote: "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 law."

Reading that again made me realize the magnitude of Dr. King's legacy.

In just 50 years, we've gone from being a country where the police targeted Martin Luther King, and locked him behind bars…to being a country where police chiefs celebrate his birthday every winter.                          

That is what real change looks like.

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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